INDIANAPOLIS The NCAA governing board said Monday it will move seven championship sporting events out of North Carolina to protest a state law it deems discriminatory to transgender individuals.
The NCAA cited the law, House Bill 2, in its decision to relocate the events, which include the first two rounds of the “March Madness” men’s basketball tournament in Greensboro in 2017.
Two months ago the National Basketball Association moved its 2017 All-Star Game from North Carolina to New Orleans for the same reason.
H.B. 2 deals with, among other things, the authority of local governments to impose anti-discrimination laws on private business. Its most controversial provision requires that in publicly owned buildings, individuals use the multi-stall restroom facilities designated for the sex listed on their birth certificate if a single-stall “family” restroom is not available.
The law came in response to an ordinance passed by the Charlotte city council in February 2016 that prevented facilities open to the public from differentiating any bathrooms or locker room facilities by sex. The ordinance did this by eliminating the exception of such facilities from existing anti-discrimination rules, which state that businesses cannot discriminate based on race, sex and other factors. Eliminating the exception for restrooms essentially meant all of them became gender neutral, setting off a political and cultural firestorm.
North Carolina Republican Party spokeswoman Kami Mueller took aim at the NCAA’s decision in a statement, contrasting the decision to the recent sexual assault scandal at Baylor University in Texas.
“This is so absurd it’s almost comical,” Mueller said in the statement. “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. This decision is an assault to female athletes across the nation. If you are unwilling to have women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, how do you have a women’s team?
“I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor,” Mueller continued. “Perhaps the NCAA should stop with their political peacocking and instead focus their energies on making sure our nation’s collegiate athletes are safe, both on and off the field.”
The governing board said it was also stripping North Carolina of soccer, golf, tennis, lacrosse and baseball events. They said its decision was in line with their policy that bans championships in states that display the Confederate battle flag of the U.S. Civil War or authorize sports wagering and at schools that use “hostile or abusive” Native American imagery.
“We are surprised and disappointed by the NCAA’s decision and regret the impact it will have on North Carolina’s student-athletes, coaches, athletic staffs, fans, and the North Carolina communities previously chosen to host these championship events,” UNC president Margaret Spellings said in a statement. “As reflected in long-standing University policy, UNC campuses do not discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, and we are fully committed to being open and welcoming to individuals of all backgrounds. We remain caught in the middle of a conflict between state law and federal guidance, and we welcome a speedy resolution of these issues by the court.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blasted North Carolina on Twitter last night after the announcement.
The @NCAA is right to pull tournament games from North Carolina because of the anti-LGBT HB2 law. Discrimination has no place in America. -H Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 13, 2016
New sites for the relocated championships will be determined at a later date. In April, the NCAA issued new guidelines that requires sites bidding on future championship events to “demonstrate that they will provide a safe environment, free of discrimination.” The governing body took that rule one step further with Monday’s decision by applying the requirement to events already scheduled.
“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said. “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.”
In a statement provided to the North State Journal, UNC Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham said the school is “disappointed for the people” of North Carolina but “is steadfast in its commitment to fairness [and] inclusion.”
“Carolina Athletics is steadfast in its commitment to fairness, inclusion and ensuring that all who come to our campus for athletic events are welcome,” Cunningham said. “We are disappointed for the people of this great state, the communities that are scheduled to play host to these championship events and to the students who may be denied the opportunity to compete for championships in their home state.”
NC State Athletics Director Debbie Yow said she was also “disappointed” in the NCAA’s decision, particularly to move “predetermined” events scheduled to be played in N.C.
“We’re disappointed to learn of the NCAA’s decision to remove predetermined Championship events from the state of North Carolina,” Yow said. “We certainly hope there will be resolution in the very near future. NC State provides and promotes equal opportunity and nondiscrimination to anyone who works, lives, studies, visits or participates in campus events, courses, programs and services.”