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College sports feel brunt of HB2 impact


hb2Greensboro residents are still reeling from news that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is pulling its annual basketball tournament out of North Carolina due to HB2, a state law passed by the Republican led General Assembly and supported by Gov. Pat McCrory allowing state sanctioned discrimination. Now, other sports organizations like the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) are following suit.

NCAA officials made an announcement on Monday, September 12:

“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships,” said Mark Emmert, NCAA president in a statement. “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.”

The Greensboro Visitors and Convention Bureau estimates a loss of nearly $17 million in tourism revenue from the NCAA.

“I know this was something many people were looking forward to. It brings so many people from around the country to visit Greensboro,” said Mayor Nancy Vaughan.

Since the controversial bill was signed into law, the state has lost millions of dollars in revenue from companies that refuse to do business in the state, musicians cancelling concerts and multiple sporting events that have decided to relocate somewhere else. Several cities and five states, including New York, have moved to bar state sponsored travel to North Carolina.

Charlotte, N.C., was to be the host of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. NBA officials decided to move the event after the implementation of HB2.

Charlotte is also the yearly host of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Championships. CIAA officials have not yet made a decision to cancel the games held in North Carolina, however, CIAA Commissioner Jacquie McWilliams did issue a statement on Tuesday, September 13, saying the CIAA Board of Directors will continue to discuss the issue.

“The CIAA is committed in providing the best experience for our student-athletes and creating a respectful and inclusive culture for our diverse membership and stakeholders,” the statement read. “The NCAA’s announcement to relocate its seven championships demonstrates the ongoing, negative impact that HB2 has on the state of North Carolina.”

By Wednesday, afternoon, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) decided to follow the NCAA and pull scheduled tournament games, also in Charlotte, from the state.

The ACC Council of Presidents met Wednesday, September 14 and voted to move ten championships held at neutral sites to locations out of state for the 2016-2017 school year. That list includes both men’s and women’s events held across the state.

In a released statement, the ACC Commissioner, John Swofford explained:

“The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount,” said Swofford in the statement. “Today’s decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships.”

There are four ACC schools in North Carolina, including Wake Forest University, UNC, Duke and N.C. State.

According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, the ACC Championship Game has had an economic impact of over $63 million the last two seasons, with over $32 million in direct spending.

Mayor Vaughan noted that the City of Greensboro has made its message of inclusion very clear and that the city welcomes diversity.

“The City of Greensboro passed three non-discrimination ordinances in the last 18 months. We were the first city to have domestic partnership benefits. We were the highest rated on the municipal equality index by the Human Relations Commission in both North and South Carolina. We have done a lot of things to show we are inclusive. I think Greensboro has a good story to tell, but we’ve been punished because of what the state has done,” said Vaughan.

The NCAA has relocated all 2016-17 championship events from North Carolina because of civil rights concerns relating to HB2.

Seven events scheduled to be held in Cary, Greenville and Greensboro are being moved from the state, including the first and second rounds of the Division I men’s basketball tournament that were scheduled to be played in Greensboro on March 17 & 18.

The other six events are the Division I women’s soccer championship, the Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships, the Division I women’s golf regional tournament, the Division III men’s and women’s tennis championships, the Division I women’s lacrosse championship and the Division II baseball championship.

House Bill 2, the law signed by N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory in March 2016, prevents local governments from expanding citywide discrimination protections to gay and transgender people and prohibits transgender people from using the public bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.

The law also bans municipalities from raising their minimum wage and prohibits them from imposing wage regulations on businesses contracting with city or county governments in N.C.

The law initially took away the ability of employees to sue their employers in state court for discrimination or wrongful termination. Months later, the legislature voted only to change a portion of HB2 that stripped workers of the right to sue their employers for wrongful termination.

Public schools and universities have been struggling to follow the law and require bathrooms and locker rooms be designated for use only by people based on biological sex. The bill also allows businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Gov. Pat McCrory released the following statement regarding the NCAA’s recent decision on the 2016-2017 championship events:

“The issue of redefining gender and basic norms of privacy will be resolved in the near future in the United States court system for not only North Carolina, but the entire nation,” McCrory said in the statement. “I strongly encourage all public and private institutions to both respect and allow our nation’s judicial system to proceed without economic threats or political retaliation toward the 22 states that are currently challenging government overreach. Sadly, the NCAA, a multi-billion dollar, tax-exempt monopoly, failed to show this respect at the expense of our student athletes and hard-working men and women.”

Multiple lawsuits against Gov. McCrory and the state have been filed challenging HB2. Including one from the Department of Justice, that argues the bathroom restrictions violate federal nondiscrimination protections in employment (Title VII) and education (Title IX).

In August 2016, a Federal District Court judge in Winston-Salem ruled that the 17-campus University of North Carolina System could not enforce the statute’s restroom access because it violates federal law, specifically Title IX, which states that “no person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program of activity receiving federal financial assistance.”