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NCAA pulls championship events from North Carolina over HB2

Since the North Carolina legislature last March passed House Bill 2, a controversial law restricting transgender bathroom access and limiting the civil rights and bathroom usage of the LGBT community, the state has lost the NBA All-Star Game, Bruce Springsteen and other concerts and conventions and millions of dollars in revenue.

Now North Carolina is losing the NCAA tournament. The NCAA announced on Monday that the seven championships scheduled in the state during this academic year, including NCAA men’s basketball tournament games in Greensboro, would be relocated because of House Bill 2, better known as HB2.

The announcement comes in the middle of a fiercely contested race for governor, a race in which HB2 had already played a prominent role. Now it is likely to become magnified.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper has criticized Republican Gov. Pat McCrory for signing HB2 into law, and McCrory has been vocal about defending his decision. In the hours after the NCAA’s announcement on Monday, Cooper again went on the offensive.

“It seems that almost every day, we learn of a new consequence of HB2,” Ford Porter, Cooper’s campaign spokesman, said in a statement. “Hosting NCAA championship events has long been a point of pride for North Carolina.”

The McCrory administration and his re-election campaign didn’t immediately issue statements or respond to emails and text messages seeking comment. The North Carolina Republican Party, however, issued a statement admonishing the NCAA, describing its decision as “so absurd it’s almost comical.”

The statement, from spokeswoman Kami Mueller, spread quickly on social media. Mueller’s statement defended HB2, particularly the part of the law that details bathroom usage.

“If you are unwilling to have women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, how do you have a women’s team?” read part of the statement. “I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor.”

HB2, which in recent months has prompted Springsteen and several other high-profile entertainers to cancel North Carolina shows in protest, dictates that on state property transgender people use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate.

In announcing the decision, the NCAA argued that HB2 would preclude North Carolina cities from guaranteeing an “inclusive atmosphere” for all.

“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships,” Mark Emmert, the NCAA president, said in a statement detailing the NCAA’s decision to remove events from North Carolina. “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.”

ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement Monday night that the ACC would not make decisions about ACC championships until discussing HB2 at previously scheduled meetings this week. But he said in the statement that he personally believed it was time for the law to be repealed.

“The decision by the NCAA Board of Governors to relocate all current, and not award any future, NCAA Championship sites in the state of North Carolina continues to build upon the negative impact this bill has already had on the state. HB2 was previously scheduled to be thoroughly discussed at this week’s ACC Council of Presidents meeting, so it would be premature to make any decisions or announcements regarding ACC Championships until our membership is able to discuss. The league’s longstanding commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion will continue to be a central theme to our discussions.

“On a personal note, it’s time for this bill to be repealed as it’s counter to basic human rights.”

After the NBA decided in July to move its all-star game, Swofford said the league’s championship events that had been scheduled in North Carolina for the 2016-17 academic year would remain in place. That includes the ACC championship game in football, which will be in Charlotte in December.

The league’s women’s basketball tournament will be in Greensboro in March, and its baseball tournament is in Durham next May.

The NCAA’s decision to pull championship events out of North Carolina comes nearly two months after the NBA moved its all-star game out of the state. Charlotte had been scheduled in February to host the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. It will be played in New Orleans instead.

The NCAA acknowledged that other states have laws that are in some ways similar to HB2. Still, the NCAA argued that “the dynamic in North Carolina is different from that of other states because of at least four specific factors.”

Listing those factors, the NCAA referenced the provision of HB2 that overrules any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class. The NCAA also mentioned the legal protection HB2 provides government officials who refuse services to the LGBT community.

Finally, the NCAA cited the five states – New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut – that prohibit public employees and representatives of state institutions from traveling to North Carolina because of HB2. Those representatives, the NCAA said, could include student-athletes and university athletic staff traveling for athletic competition.

The Greensboro Coliseum had been scheduled to host first- and second-round NCAA men’s basketball tournament games next March. Those games, scheduled for March 17 and 19, will now be played at yet-to-be determined location.

In addition to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, North Carolina is also losing:

▪ The 2016 Division I Women’s Soccer Championship, which had been scheduled for Dec. 2 and 4 in Cary.

▪ The 2016 Division III Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships, which had been scheduled for Dec. 2 and 3 in Greensboro.

▪ A 2017 Division I Women’s Golf Championships regional, which had been scheduled for May 8-10 in Greenville.

▪ The 2017 Division III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships, which had been scheduled for May 22-27 in Cary.

▪ The 2017 Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship, which had been scheduled for May 26 and 28 in Cary.

▪ The 2017 Division II Baseball Championship, which had been scheduled for May 27-June 3 in Cary.

The Town of Cary was hit especially hard by the NCAA’s decision. Harold Weinbrecht, the Cary mayor, released a statement expressing his frustration that HB2 had cost the town the opportunity to host four NCAA championships.

“I am extremely disappointed with this news,” he said. “We are no longer viewed as a progressive state but a backwards one which is a disservice to the citizens of North Carolina. We will lose millions of dollars in economic benefit locally.

“We are currently viewed as a discriminatory state by the many businesses who have decided not to consider us in their future plans. Now the NCAA has been added to that list.”

It was unclear on Monday where the championships that North Carolina lost will be played. It was also unclear how the NCAA’s decision affects championship events that have been scheduled beyond this academic year.

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

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter

Events pulled from North Carolina over HB2

▪ NCAA men’s basketball tournament, including first- and second-round games scheduled for the Greensboro Coliseum on March 17 and 19

▪ The 2016 Division I Women’s Soccer Championship, which had been scheduled for Dec. 2 and 4 in Cary.

▪ The 2016 Division III Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships, which had been scheduled for Dec. 2 and 3 in Greensboro.

▪ A 2017 Division I Women’s Golf Championships regional, which had been scheduled from May 8-10 in Greenville.

▪ The 2017 Division III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships, which had been scheduled from May 22-27 in Cary.

▪ The 2017 Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship, which had been scheduled for May 26 and 28 in Cary.

▪ The 2017 Division II Baseball Championship, which had been scheduled for May 27-June 3 in Cary.

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