In the span of 72 hours, the ACC and NCAA have both announced they are pulling their biggest events out of the state of North Carolina as a response to the state’s implementation of HB2, which has become known as the “Bathroom Bill.”
The measure, passed by the state legislature and signed into law in March by Governor Pat McCrory, mandates that only single-sex bathrooms be used in public agencies and schools and prevents transgender persons from using bathrooms in accordance with their own gender identity.
More than that however, the new law also sets a definition of classes of people who are protected throughout the state against discrimination: race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap or biological sex as designated on a person’s birth certificate. Sexual orientation – people who are gay – is not explicitly protected. As a consequence, intended or not, the bill was seen as anti-LGBT by many, and the uproar started before the ink was dry on the governor’s signature. Since the bill’s initiation in March, corporations like PayPal have decided not to open new offices in the state. Musical artists like Bruce Springsteen have cancelled shows in the state. The legislature did not bat an eye.
ACC Pulls Football Title Game From North Carolina
But now, this week, comes perhaps the biggest blow. North Carolina, a state that prides itself on its love affair with college athletics is being punished by the very entities it so desperately seeks to identify itself with. Wednesday, the ACC, which is headquartered in Greensboro, announced it was pulling all of its neutral site athletic championships from the state of North Carolina for the 2016-2017 academic year. This means that 10 conference championship tournaments/games will be moved elsewhere, the biggest of which is the ACC football championship game, scheduled for Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte for December 3rd.
This comes about 48 hours after the NCAA announced it was moving all its neutral site events out of the state. The list included seven scheduled regional and national championship events for women’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s basketball, baseball and lacrosse.
In its statement today, the ACC Council of Presidents said, “As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination.” “We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year.” There was no mention of a vote, the results of which would have included traditional Catholic schools Notre Dame and Boston College.
Clemson President James P. Clements, who heads the ACC Council of presidents said, “The decision to move the neutral site championships out of North Carolina while HB2 remains the law was not an easy one. But it is consistent with the shared values of inclusion and non-discrimination at all our institutions.”
Duke President Rich Brodhead had already gone on record about the NCAA decision yesterday on MSNBC. “Duke agrees with this decision.” Brodhead said it was clear, “The NCAA regarded this as a fairness and equal rights, equal protection kind of issue. Certainly, that’s the way we see it.” Brohead’s hall-of-fame men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski also supported the move and previously called HB2, “an embarassment to the state.”
No one from the North Carolina state legislature was quick to react to the ACC move. The same could not be said with regards to the NCAA announcement earlier this week. Kami Mueller, spokesperson for the North Carolina Republican Party, said this on Monday, “This is so absurd it’s almost comical. I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams. Under the NCAA’s logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers and hotel rooms.”
The message from the ACC, and the NCAA seems clear. Both entities realize that within the family of thousands of collegiate athletes that they represent, and within the millions of fans who pay money to go to the events, there are many who are also a part of the LGBT community. If they are not going to be a protected class by the state of North Carolina, then the governing sports bodies intend to take action where it hurts the most; in the pocketbook.
The financial impairment to the city of Charlotte is estimated to be at least $40 million in loss of ticket revenue, hotel and restaurant business. In July, the NBA Board of Governors announced they would move the February 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte. At that time, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce estimated the loss to the city would be around $75 million for the three day event. North Carolina has hosted 251 NCAA men’s basketball tournament games in the last 65 years, more than any other state. That seems to be coming to an end at least in the short term.
The city of Orlando has already openly expressed its desire to host the ACC Championship football game. Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte has a capacity of just over 75,000 and has hosted the game for the last six years. Camping World Stadium in Orlando, (formerly the Citrus Bowl), holds 65,000, but might be easier than moving the game to a stadium that also hosts an NFL team. Relocating the basketball tournament games and other events will be easier due to not needing such large venues.
With election day looming, there are no expectations that the state legislature will reconsider HB2 in light of these recent announcements. According to the Real Clear Politics, McCory is seven points behind Democrat challenger Roy Cooper and several state legislators are in tougher than expected races. Whether the NCAA and ACC announcements or the looming financial toll they will take on the state has any impact on the races is too soon to tell.