State Politics

NCAA deadline to address House Bill 2 is 48 hours away, event recruiter says

North Carolina will lose out on NCAA championship events through 2022 if legislators don’t address House Bill 2 within 48 hours, a leading Raleigh sports event recruiter said Tuesday.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” said Scott Dupree, who leads the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, which recruits NCAA and other sporting events to Raleigh. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”

“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

Dupree’s comment, issued at noon Tuesday, adds urgency to the NCAA’s statement last week reminding legislators that the deadline is approaching.

“Absent any change in the law, our position remains the same regarding hosting current or future events in the state,” the NCAA said Thursday in a statement posted to Twitter and emailed to news media. “As the state knows, next week our various sports committees will begin making championship site selections for 2018-2022 based upon bids received from across the country. ... Those decisions are final and an announcement of all sites will be made on April 18.”

No HB2-related bills were on the legislature’s calendar for this week. Until last week, Republicans were negotiating with Democrats and Gov. Roy Cooper to find a repeal compromise that would win support from a bipartisan majority of House lawmakers.

Last Thursday, House Speaker Tim Moore said the bipartisan compromise measure was “dead,” but he said House and Senate Republicans are working on new legislation to change HB2.

Moore said Monday night that GOP lawmakers are still discussing draft legislation, which hasn’t been finalized or filed yet.

“The talks continue about compromise,” he told reporters. “Those conversations continue to occur, and we’ll see if it actually results in anything.”

Asked if he expects a bill to be introduced this week, Moore didn’t set a timeline. “We’re going to move at a pace that we need to,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican and vocal supporter of HB2, sent a letter to legislators this week urging them to oppose any changes to the law – including the measure Republicans are considering.

Forest said he’s “deeply troubled” that lawmakers “seem to be reacting to the demands and timetables of an unaccountable, out-of-state organization (NCAA), not elected by the people, to enforce a radical policy change.”

“I fear that if our General Assembly succumbs to this new form of economic and corporate extortion, we will be establishing a precedent,” he added.

It’s unclear if the proposal legislative Republicans are considering would satisfy the NCAA’s concerns about HB2.

HB2 bans cities, towns and counties from passing nondiscrimination ordinances. Under a draft bill leaked to media last week, local governments could enact ordinances but would be allowed to use only the “protected classifications established in federal law.” Those classifications don’t explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity.

The draft bill would repeal HB2 but would ban state agencies, universities and school boards from setting bathroom access policies. It also includes a section labeled “protect the rights of conscience,” which would allow lawsuits against the state for anyone who believes their constitutional rights “are burdened or likely to be burdened” by government action.

Moore confirmed Monday that the leaked bill is the proposal under consideration but that it’s “changed some” since last week.

The N.C. Democratic Party criticized the legislature’s lack of action on Tuesday. “We are two days away from suffering a massive blow to our state’s economy and reputation, and yet Speaker Moore and his colleagues still have yet to show that they’re serious about repealing House Bill 2,” the party’s executive director, Kimberly Reynolds, said in a news release.

North Carolina venues have submitted 133 bids for NCAA championship events between 2018 and 2022. According to Dupree, those events have a potential economic impact of at least $250 million.

Venues in Wake County make up 57 of those bids and cover 14 sports, according to the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance. They include proposals to host the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at PNC Arena, track and field championships at St. Augustine’s University, golf championships at N.C. State, and baseball and softball championships in Cary.

Dupree has said that if the NCAA blacklists North Carolina, “the Atlantic Coast Conference and many other sports organizations will surely follow.”

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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