H.B. 2 boycott causes backlash

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Pat Carter

RALEIGH — As the notoriety of North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, or H.B. 2, gained momentum nationally, protests morphed from a handful of cancelled concerts in the state to the abandonment of planned expansion by companies such as PayPal and Deutsche Bank. The protests of the law have culminated in decisions by the NCAA and ACC to pull championship sports venues out of the Old North State.However, as the boycotts of the state among collegiate sports associations grows, so too is the backlash by some member schools, as well as local politicians, for what they deem the unnecessary politicization of college sports.On Monday, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), announced that it would relocate the 2016 Cross Country College Championships from Charlotte in protest of H.B. 2. However, the decision did not sit well with at least two member schools.According to reports, the presidents of Oklahoma Wesleyan University and College of the Ozarks are opting to withdraw their schools’ teams from the competition rather than participate in the political protest.”It’s not the business of the NAIA to tell the citizens of North Carolina how to regulate their bathrooms, nor should athletes be political pawns,” said College of the Ozarks President Jerry Davis in a statement. “This is another example of political correctness gone berserk and is a big mistake.”Oklahoma Wesleyan president, Everett Piper, asserted that the NAIA protest was inconsistent with the organizations core values, telling Tulsa World that the organization should have the moral clarity torecognize that female athletes deserve their own restrooms and changing facilities.”How can we claim to be an organization that supports women if our leadership is so willing to deny female athletes the right to have their own bathrooms, showers, toilet, and lavatory?” asked Piper rhetorically at a press conference. “The NAIA’s disregard for such basic rights is sobering.”Similarly, Monday’s announcement that the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) would be relocating the JUCO World Series event from Kinston, in protest of H.B. 2, drew sharp criticism from Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy.At a press conference on the issue, Murphy condemned, not the N.C. General Assembly, but Charlotte City Council and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts for creating the political firestorm by passing an intentionally provocative discrimination ordinance.”Just as recently as three weeks ago, the mayor of Charlotte had the opportunity to have a constructive dialogue with the state of North Carolina to right the ship,” said Murphy at the Monday press conference. “However Mayor Roberts chose politics over policy. Mayor Roberts chose politics over people. And Mayor Roberts chose politics over Kinston’s youth.”The boycott backlash comes after an editorial in the Wall Street Journal last week by the president of the University of Notre Dame, John I. Jenkins, in which he scolded the NCAA for overstepping its authority, stating that sports organizations have no right to insert themselves into state legislative matters.”The role of such associations, is to foster athletic competition that is fair and serves the well-being of student-athletes,” wrote Jenkins. “There is plenty of work for them to do in that sphere without assuming the role of spokesperson for their members on contentious political and social issues.”Jenkins, president of a Catholic university, also touched on the reservations many citizens may have with the implications of the original Charlotte ordinance, while acknowledging the importance for tolerance.”Heightened respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens is a signal moral achievement of our time, and harboring reservations about any retrenchment is natural,” wrote Jenkins. “Yet some citizens may wonder about the implications of substituting gender identity for biological sex in public restrooms. While attending to the rights and sensibilities of transgender persons, it’s important to also take into account the feelings of those who might be uncomfortable undressing in front of a member of the opposite biological sex.”The controversial law is likely to remain a source of political and social contention, with tendentious boycotts being viewed as smart public affairs by national organizations eliciting their own backlash as North Carolina and the rest of the country look toward elections next month.