The NCAA announced on Monday evening that they will relocate all of their championship events scheduled to take place in North Carolina due to the controversial HB2 law, which eliminates protections for the LGBT community and, inside government buildings, makes it unlawful for transgendered people to use a bathroom that differs from the gender listed on their birth certificate.
There were seven events scheduled to take place in North Carolina during the 2016-17 school year, including the NCAA tournament; the 1st and 2nd round games that were supposed to be played in Greensboro, N.C., will be relocated to a site that is still to be determined.
“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships,” said Mark Emmert, NCAA president. “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.”
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The decision was made not only because “North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community”, but also due to the fact that five states — Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Minnesota and Washington — and numerous cities currently prohibit travel to the state for public officials and employees of public institutions.
Over the summer, the NCAA notified all cities that were scheduled to host an NCAA sanctioned championship that they were required to fill out a questionnaire detailing how they would protect the athletes — and the fans that traveled and paid for a ticket to watch and support their teams — from discrimination. Those questionnaires, which were specifically targeted at cities in North Carolina, were due in August.
The thought was that the NCAA might be able to be the ones to get the law amended, maybe even eliminated. This isn’t like the NBA pulling the all-star game. It’s different than having Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr and Pearl Jam cancel concerts within the state’s borders.
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North Carolina is college basketball.
The people of that state care about the Tar Heels and the Wolfpack, the Blue Devils and the Demon Deacons more than they care about just about anything else. If losing major money-making events isn’t enough to convince elected officials to make a change, the hope was that threatening to pull the NCAA tournament from the state would be.
And the result is that North Carolina will not host NCAA tournament games this year. The state likely won’t host NCAA tournament games as long as this law, as it is currently written, remains on the books.
That may be enough to convince the people of that state to replace their current elected officials with one who will change the law.
Because you can mess with their money. North Carolinians have proven that already. You can send the revenue generated by the NBA All-Star game or a Springsteen concert out of state. That might hurt, but will it hurt as much as not being able to watch UNC or Duke play two tournament games in their backyard?
Will it hurt as much as potentially setting one of the state’s two bluebloods up for an early exit from the Big Dance?
CBS Sports asked anonymous coaches about this decision over the summer, and one answer stood out to me: “If it keeps me from having to play a first-round game in the tournament against Duke or North Carolina in North Carolina, I’m absolutely for it. Please don’t put my name on that.”
“But I know I’m not the only coach who feels that way.”
If coaches are happy about this from a competitive standpoint, then the fans supporting those teams won’t be.
And if the state’s basketball fans aren’t happy, maybe that’s what it will take to get those elected officials to either change the law or find themselves out of office.