Phil Ford, considered one of the greatest basketball players in North Carolina history, released a statement on Friday expressing his disappointment over North Carolina’s loss of ACC and NCAA championship events in protest of House Bill 2.
Ford’s statement was released through Roy Cooper’s gubernatorial campaign, and Ford in the statement endorsed Cooper, the Democratic candidate who is running against Republican incumbent Pat McCrory.
Here is part of Ford’s statement:
“One of the highlights of my basketball career at North Carolina was the 1975 ACC Tournament in the Greensboro Coliseum. I’ll never forget cutting down those nets with my teammates after winning the championship.
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“The news this week that the ACC is pulling all neutral-site championships because of HB2 was tough for many North Carolinians. Communities all over the state are suffering from this needless, discriminatory law. …
“Hosting the ACC is a big part of who we are as North Carolinians. It brings communities together and provides opportunities for volunteers and businesses to get involved in something special. Losing these games means our cities and towns are losing out on tens of millions of dollars in economic activity.
“So, while I’m disappointed we won’t have these wonderful championships because of HB2, I’m also saddened by the impact it will have on our state.”
In response to Ford’s statement, Ricky Diaz, McCrory’s campaign spokesman, wrote in an email, “We see more and more politicization of sports with shameful protests of the American flag, our fallen heroes, and our brave police officers. Roy Cooper has now resorted to using sports as a political weapon to enact economic damage on North Carolina in order to help him politically, and it’s shameful.”
The NCAA announced on Monday that it was pulling seven championship events out of North Carolina because of HB2, which limits anti-discriminatory protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The law also mandates that on state property transgender people use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate.
Two days after the NCAA announced its decision to remove events from North Carolina, the ACC followed and announced that it is moving the 10 league championships that had been scheduled in North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year. The loss of NCAA and ACC championships could cost the state in the hundreds of millions of dollars in lost economic impact.
Among the events leaving North Carolina are the first- and second-round NCAA men’s basketball tournament games that had been scheduled in Greensboro next March, and the ACC championship game in football, which was to be played in Charlotte on Dec. 3. The ACC’s Council of Presidents voted on Wednesday to relocate the league’s neutral-site North Carolina championships.
The result of the vote, which required a simple majority to pass, remains unknown. Duke University President Richard Brodhead voted in favor of moving ACC championships from North Carolina. In a joint statement that UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State released on Thursday, the chancellors at both schools – Carol Folt at UNC and Randy Woodson at N.C. State – said “discussions, deliberations and breakdown of votes are confidential.”
“We can confirm it was a thoughtful and vigorous discussion and was not a unanimous vote.”