Basketball-crazed North Carolina has lost its next chance to host NCAA men’s basketball tournament games along with several other championship events due to a state law that some say can lead to discrimination against LGBT people.
And the fallout may not be over.
After the NCAA announced it is pulling seven championship events from North Carolina for this year, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford, whose league hosts many sporting events in the state, including its football championship game, said the ACC’s council of presidents were set to discuss the law at a previously scheduled meeting later this week.
The ACC football championship game, held in Charlotte since 2010, is the last marquee college sporting event left in the state during the 2016-17 season. While Swofford said it would be “premature” to make any decisions about holding events in North Carolina for now, he also issued a clear statement against the law.
“On a personal note,” Swofford said, “it’s time for this bill to be repealed as its counter to basic human rights.”
In a news release Monday, the NCAA says the decision by its board of governors came “because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections.”
The law, known as HB2, requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide anti-discrimination protections.
HB2 was signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this year. A spokesman with McCrory’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday evening, but a spokeswoman with the state Republican party blasted the NCAA’s decision in a statement, saying it is “so absurd it’s almost comical.”
“I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor,” spokeswoman Kami Mueller said Monday night.
The only championship events that can be hosted in North Carolina this academic year are ones determined when a team earns the right to play on its own campus.
The NCAA said it will relocate the men’s basketball first- and second-round games that were scheduled for March 17 and 19 in Greensboro. The NCAA will also relocate: the Division I women’s soccer championship scheduled for Dec. 2 and 4 in Cary, just outside the capital city of Raleigh; the Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships set for Dec. 2 and 3 in Greensboro; the Division I women’s golf regional championships set for May 8-10 in Greenville; the Division III men’s and women’s tennis championships set for May 22-27 in Cary; the Division I women’s lacrosse championship set for May 26 and 28 in Cary; and the Division II baseball championship from May 27 to June 3 in Cary.
The state has been a frequent host for NCAA men’s basketball tournament games. In all, the NCAA said North Carolina has hosted 251 men’s tournament games since 1951, the most of any state.
Athletic directors at three of the state’s ACC schools — North Carolina’s Bubba Cunningham, North Carolina State’s Debbie Yow and Wake Forest’s Ron Wellman — issued statements saying they were disappointed at the loss of events. Duke AD Kevin White went further, saying the school agreed with the NCAA’s decision.
“Our position has been clear on this matter, which is that this legislation is discriminatory, troubling and embarrassing,” White said.
The campaign spokesman for Democrat Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general and McCrory’s re-election opponent in November, also said the law needs to be repealed.
“It seems that almost every day, we learn of a new consequence of HB2,” spokesman Ford Porter said. “… We need to repeal this law and get our state back on track.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert said in statement Monday night that the governing body will delay announcements on future championship sites until early next year. That comes as it reviews responses to questionnaires required of prospective site hosts on how they would comply with the NCAA’s anti-discrimination measure.
In its announcement Monday, the NCAA took special note of ways North Carolina’s law differs from other states. The NCAA pointed out that five states — Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington — and several cities prohibit travel by public employees and representatives of public institutions to the state of North Carolina. The representatives prohibited to travel could include athletes, coaches and athletic administrators.
Monday’s action by the NCAA is the latest public and business backlash that has arisen since the law was enacted. The NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game to New Orleans instead of hosting it in Charlotte as originally scheduled because of the law. Duke lost a men’s basketball game from its schedule when Albany backed out due to that state’s travel ban, while the Vermont women’s basketball team has canceled a December trip to play North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Entertainers like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Ringo Starr have canceled plans to play in North Carolina. And PayPal reversed plans to open a 400-employee operation center in Charlotte.