Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday acknowledged the NCAA’s decision to once again consider North Carolina to host championship sports events was pointedly begrudging.
But he urged the organization and advocacy groups to see the repeal of House Bill 2 as an ongoing work in progress.
“We are glad that the NCAA is going to come back to North Carolina and join us in fighting for more protections and for more ways to keep people from being discriminated against,” Cooper said at a news conference soon after the announcement was made.
The decision was announced by the college sports organization in a statement posted on its website Tuesday morning. Republican legislators and Democrat Cooper, facing a reported deadline to avoid missing out on NCAA postseason games through 2022, negotiated a compromise last week and approved it Thursday.
Advocates for LGBT and other protections immediately shifted their criticism of HB2 to Cooper, saying he should have stood firm for a repeal of HB2 with no strings attached.
“We are actively determining site selections, and this new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment,” the NCAA’s statement said.
“In the end,” the NCAA said, “a majority on the NCAA Board of Governors reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina by our committees that are presently meeting.”
“Clearly, they wanted a clean repeal of House Bill 2, as did I,” Cooper said. “But it is important that they recognized progress in this legislation, and they recognized that even though it wasn’t everything they wanted, that it was enough for them to come back and to join us in the fight to continue to improve our laws so people can be protected from discrimination.”
Cooper said without the compromise, HB2 would have remained in place. There was a fleeting opportunity to reach an agreement, he said.
“If we had not done this deal I did not see any ability in the foreseeable future to bring this issue up again,” Cooper said. “I think there was a lot of fatigue, a lot of resistance from the Republican leadership on this. I believe it is important progress.”
Cooper addressed journalists after the monthly meeting of the Council of State at the Administration Building in downtown Raleigh.
Later in the morning, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore released a joint statement, quoting the NCAA’s announcement.
“We are pleased with the NCAA’s decision and acknowledgment that our compromise legislation ‘restores the state to… a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships,’” the legislative leaders wrote.