State Politics

After HB2 deal, NC back in consideration for NCAA games

The NCAA has “reluctantly” agreed to consider North Carolina as a location for sports championships after the state General Assembly replaced House Bill 2 last week.

The decision was announced by the college sports organization in a statement posted on its website Tuesday morning. Republican legislators and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, facing a reported deadline to avoid missing out on NCAA postseason games through 2022, negotiated a compromise last week and approved it Thursday.

“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 organization’s statement said.

The deal repealed HB2, including regulations on bathroom access by transgender people, but put in place a moratorium limiting local governments’ authority to create their own non-discrimination ordinances through 2020.

“As with most compromises, this new law is far from perfect,” the NCAA said.

“In the end,” the organization 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.”

The league said the announcement of future sites will be made on April 18.

The legislature and former Gov. Pat McCrory approved House Bill 2 last spring. The NCAA reacted by relocating championships that had been scheduled in North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year. The relocation in 2016 was especially painful for Cary, which lost the Division I women’s lacrosse championship, Division II baseball championship and Division III men’s and women’s tennis championships.

The NCAA said Tuesday that previously scheduled 2017-18 events will now remain in the state. That allows the state to host baseball, women’s gymnastics and men’s golf as scheduled.

Charlotte is scheduled to host first- and second-round NCAA men’s basketball tournament games in 2017-2018.

“We are delighted that the NCAA is back in business in the State of North Carolina. For more than 50 years, North Carolina has enjoyed its partnership with the NCAA, and now with today’s announcement we can look forward to the next 50,” Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said in a statement.

Advocacy groups including the NAACP, Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC blasted the NCAA.

“The NCAA’s decision to backtrack on their vow to protect LGBTQ players, employees and fans is deeply disappointing and puts people at risk,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “After drawing a line in the sand and calling for repeal of HB2, the NCAA simply let North Carolina lawmakers off the hook."

The NCAA said it has directed that any site awarded a championship be required to demonstrate how athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the NCAA “must stand by its word and demand documentation of basic nondiscrimination policies before committing to any North Carolina sites.”

“This new law is not a repeal of HB2. It doubles down on the dangerous lie that transgender people are a threat to public safety, and it doesn’t leave North Carolina the way it was before HB2,” Sarah Gillooly, policy director for the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition that supported HB2, said the coalition is pleased the NCAA “has decided to end their boycott and lobbying efforts against our State,” but added that the NCAA “had no business demanding anything of North Carolina lawmakers.”

“The NCAA’s boycott of North Carolina achieved what it wanted—the repeal of HB2—proving that bullying works as long as you meet the demands of the bully,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Republican Senate leader Phil Berger and Republican House Speaker Tim Moore issued a joint statement Tuesday praising the NCAA’s decision.

“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’ statement said, quoting the NCAA statement.

Cooper, a Democrat, held a news conference after Tuesday morning’s regular meeting of the top elected leaders in the Council of State.

“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.

“Clearly, they wanted a clean repeal of House Bill 2, as did I. 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. I think that is an important step. I thought this law that we put into place was an important step for the people of our state.”

The NCAA’s announcement came hours after the UNC men’s basketball team won its sixth NCAA championship with a 71-65 victory against Gonzaga.

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