The NCAA Is Playing Offense & Moving Its Games Out Of North Carolina

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Less than two months after the National Basketball Association announced it would be moving its 2017 All-Star Game and all related festivities out of North Carolina, the National Collegiate Athletic Association is taking a similar stand. The N.C.A.A. will be relocating all of the sports events scheduled to take place in Greensboro and other locations throughout the state to protest North Carolina’s stance on transgender use of public restrooms and other fallout from the controversial House Bill 2, one of the most disputatious political developments this year.

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As reported by the New York Times, the N.C.A.A.’s decision is in response to the curbing of “anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people” resulting out of the North Carolina House Bill 2, more colloquially known as the “bathroom bill” because it requires men and women to use the public restroom matching the gender in which they were born, not the gender with which they identify. However, HB2 deals with much more than bathrooms, in that it “nullified local government ordinances establishing anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people” in the workplace, schools, and elsewhere.

HB2

Of the N.C.A.A.’s historic political decision, the Board of Governors of the Association released a statement saying “N.C.A.A. championships and events must promote an inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans. Current North Carolina state laws make it challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver on that commitment.” In a statement shared on the N.C.A.A. website, Association President Mark Emmert says “[f]airness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships. We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans and everyone taking part in our championships.”

Specifically, the N.C.A.A. outlined four reasons for its decision, based on the specifics of the North Carolina laws in question. These laws “invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals,” meaning that any protections in place prior to HB2 have been rendered ineffective. Secondly, “North Carolina has the only statewide law that makes it unlawful to use a restroom different from the gender on one’s birth certificate, regardless of gender identity,” which makes it an anomaly and one that is in direct opposition to laws in the rest of the country. Furthermore, “North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community,” so those who work for city and state offices can legally deny or hinder access to citizens based on their sexual identity or orientation. Lastly, the N.C.A.A. points to actions already undertaken by others in support of its own decision to protest the state’s ruling. “Five states plus numerous cities prohibit travel to North Carolina for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include student-athletes and campus athletics staff. These states are New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut,” the statement reads.

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Fans of college sports will realize not only the implications of the decision on the student athletes taking part in the games, but also the state of North Carolina itself, where “college basketball is central to the state’s culture and pride.” The organization is acutely aware of that fact, even sharing with the Times that the state has hosted more games in men’s basketball than any other in the country. Nevertheless, during a time when athletics and politics are merging in powerful ways, the N.C.A.A. is standing by its decision despite the potential economic blow it could result in for North Carolinians.

The decision will affect “women’s soccer, women’s golf and women’s lacrosse in Division I; baseball in Division II; and men’s and women’s soccer in Division III” in addition to the hugely successful and lucrative men’s basketball tournament and it could very well affect a pending decision from the organization in charge of the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game, also headquartered in North Carolina.

The N.C.A.A.’s decision arrives during an era when athletes and celebrities are taking very public stands against what they see as injustice. In the world of sports, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has set into motion a movement of athletes sitting out the national anthem at sporting events in protest of police violence and the oppression of people of color. His act has inspired similar gestures from not only other football stars, but also soccer and volleyball players. With specific regards to North Carolina’s HB2, artists including Bruce Springsteen and Cyndi Lauper have canceled performance dates in the state to protest the law.

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A trial addressing the constitutionality of House Bill 2 is slated to take place in 2017.

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