It rained in Charlotte during the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities, but that didn’t put a damper on Gov. Roy Cooper’s plans to take a few victory laps over the event’s return to the Queen City.
“Not only is [the three-day event] a great showcase for Charlotte and North Carolina, but it helps our economy, and it helps people put more money in their pockets,” Cooper told reporters at an informal Saturday presser.
In a fundraising email sent Thursday, the Cooper reelection campaign reminded voters of the state’s controversial HB2 bathroom law, saying the NBA pulling the 2017 All-Star game out of Charlotte over the bill was “a major blow to our state’s reputation and economy.” He took credit for the game’s return.
But what he left out is just how instrumental his actions and those of his party were in influencing businesses, entertainers, and sporting extravaganzas to respectively pull out of planned expansions and events here during his 2016 run for governor.
In May 2016, a little over a month after then-Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB2 into law, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cooper – then the state’s attorney general – called Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff to discuss the law shortly after its passage. Benioff was known as a corporate “social justice warrior” who frequently used his position to pressure other companies not to expand in states with so-called “discriminatory” laws like HB2.
The paper asked the Cooper campaign to explain why he privately spoke with someone whose specialty was threatening mass pullouts of business expansion in states that passed laws he didn’t like. Cooper’s deputy campaign manager responded that the gubernatorial candidate “looked to Salesforce because he wanted them to know that this is not who North Carolina is, and that we are fighting against this discriminatory law.”
It worked. In mid-April, per the paper, “Deutsche Bank announced it would freeze plans to add 250 North Carolina jobs while any of the law stayed intact.”
In early July 2016, Charlotte’s WBTV News reported that a bipartisan deal to broadly amend HB2 was axed after political strong-arming from then-candidate-for-governor Cooper. The station noted that around 10 House Democrats were on board to support a compromise bill until Cooper started calling them.
“We were told Cooper was making personal phone calls to the ten Democratic members saying if they wanted to be on the team in November they needed to vote against the bill,” the report noted someone with direct knowledge of the ongoing negotiations as saying.
On July 21, 2016, the NBA officially announced they were pulling the 2017 All-Star game out of Charlotte.
Two months later, another bipartisan attempt at amending HB2 collapsed after some backdoor political maneuvering. The same news outlet reported that an unnamed Democratic member of the state legislature “confirmed [Rep. Becky] Carney tied her opposition to the [Charlotte] ordinance’s repeal directly to her desire to keep HB2 on the books so Democrats in close legislative races could use the bill as a wedge issue in November’s election.”
Carney, like other Democrats, sought to increase her party’s numbers in the state legislature, hoping to take away the Republicans’ veto-proof majorities in case Cooper was elected governor.
The reason the attempts at “fixing” HB2 didn’t work was simple: Cooper didn’t want the issue to be resolved before the election. It was benefiting him politically and financially to work behind the scenes to deliberately try to sabotage a state economy that, under the leadership of Gov. McCrory and the Republican-controlled legislature, began to boom.
The underhanded tactic worked. Cooper was elected governor that fall.
In that fundraising email from last Thursday, the governor tried to take credit for the return of the All-Star game. The truth is he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table to sign what was a largely symbolic repeal bill in March 2017, which opened the door again for organizations like the NBA to do business here.
The reality is that Governor Cooper, his state party allies, and the activist left were responsible for us losing the NBA All-Star game. The reality also is that Republican legislators are largely responsible for the game returning to Charlotte.
Cooper’s peacock-like strutting brings to mind the old southern saying “all hat and no cattle.” His words say one thing, but his past actions show something far less flattering.
Stacey Matthews is a veteran blogger under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to Red State and Legal Insurrection.