By Jill Martin
North Carolina is included as one of the states listed to host NCAA championship events between the years 2018-2022, the NCAA announced Tuesday.
The news comes two weeks after the NCAA ended its ban against the state, when it announced the organization’s Board of Governors “reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina.” The reversal came after the state’s partial repeal of House Bill 2, or the so-called bathroom bill.
HB2 ordered that people at a government-run facility must use bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. North Carolina lawmakers passed a bill, HB142, on March 30 that repealed the controversial law.
The new bill keeps regulation of bathroom access solely in control of the state legislature. It also prevents local governments from passing or amending their own nondiscrimination ordinances relating to private employment and public accommodation until December 2020.
The Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC issued a joint statement condemning the NCAA’s decision.
“The NCAA has fallen ‘hook, line, and sinker’ for this ‘bait and switch’ sham ‘deal’ doubling down on discrimination,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president for policy and political affairs. “Even worse, the NCAA has inexcusably gone back on its promise to ensure all championship games are held in locations that are safe, respectful, and free of discrimination. By rewarding North Carolina with championship games, the NCAA has undermined its credibility and is sending a dangerous message to lawmakers across the country who are targeting LGBTQ people with discriminatory state legislation.”
In August 2016, the NCAA said it would relocate championships that were scheduled to be held in North Carolina during the 2016-2017 academic year, citing the “cumulative impact HB2 had on local communities’ ability to ensure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for all those watching and participating” in its events.
The affected events included this year’s Division I Men’s Basketball Championship first and second rounds, which were held last month. Those originally were scheduled to be held in Greensboro. Instead, they were relocated to Greenville, South Carolina, about 190 miles away.
Greensboro will host the first and second rounds of the men’s tournament in 2020, while Raleigh will host the same event in 2021.
The same day the bathroom law was repealed, NCAA President Mark Emmert addressed the subject in his news conference ahead of the men’s Final Four in Glendale, Arizona, noting that North Carolina is rich in college sports tradition.
“Everybody loves being in North Carolina for our games,” Emmert said. “It’s a state, obviously, that in many ways is synonymous with college sports.”
The NCAA previously said it did not lobby for any specific change in the law.
“We recognize the quality championships hosted by the people of North Carolina in years before HB2,” the April 4 statement said. “And this new law restores the state to that legal landscape: a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.”
Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, the NCAA had said championships previously awarded to North Carolina for 2017-18 would remain in the state.
More hosting news could be on the horizon. On April 7, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Charlotte is eligible to host the NBA All-Star Game in 2019. This year’s All-Star Game, originally scheduled to be held in Charlotte, was moved to New Orleans.
Silver said Charlotte getting the 2019 game is “not a done deal yet,” as the city will need to show when it resubmits its bid that it will adhere to the NBA’s anti-discrimination policy.
“I’m proud of the league’s stance on opposing HB2 and announcing that we were not going to play the All-Star Game under those circumstances,” Silver said. “And I’m also proud that we’re going back. I think we can be a force for change.
“I understand that there is a segment of our fan base that believes that the change from HB2 to the new law is not enough, but it is change. It’s incremental change. We were part of the movement, pushing for that change. It’s not everything we could have hoped for, but we’re prepared to go back.”