RALEIGH — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the basketball league made a business decision that North Carolina’s law limiting anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people makes holding its 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte untenable.
“The NBA recognizes that it cannot choose the law in every country, state, and city in which it does business. We can, however, make business judgments as to where we will be able to conduct our events successfully,” Silver said in a letter to U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger.
The Republican lawmaker’s district includes Charlotte, which lost the all-star event last week, an estimated $100 million blow to the local economy.
Pittenger’s office on Thursday released Silver’s letter, which expands on points the NBA raised in explaining its July 21 decision, along with his response, co-signed by 16 other House conservatives.
House Bill 2 excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from antidiscrimination protections related to the workplace, hotels and restaurants; and it overrules local antidiscrimination ordinances.
Republican lawmakers passed it in response to a Charlotte ordinance that would have protected transgender people who use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
The state law made Charlotte the focal point of controversy and lawsuits, Silver said in his response to Pittenger’s criticism. A federal judge set a hearing for Monday on a motion to block enforcement of the law’s bathroom access provision ahead of a November trial in four of the five pending lawsuits.
“Under these circumstances, it is our business judgment that we cannot successfully conduct our All-Star game in Charlotte in 2017. It was certainly not our preference to move the game,” Silver wrote.
Pittenger and other conservatives contend the law protects women and girls from being molested by heterosexual men posing as transsexual women.
The NBA is hypocritically penalizing Charlotte while staging preseason games in China, where the government’s human rights abuses abound, Pittenger wrote in response to Silver.
“We would respectfully submit that the exercise of these barbarous acts in China have long been in the public domain prior to the NBA pursuing a lucrative opportunity in China. We understand you have chosen to bow to the firestorm in this country. The lack of free speech in China provides a safe haven for you to advance your business interests,” Pittenger wrote back.
The NBA has not announced a new location for next February’s all-star weekend. The league said it would reschedule the 2019 game for Charlotte if disputes about the law are resolved.