The writing has been on the wall since July, when the NBA pulled its All-Star Game out of Charlotte and the NCAA – on the same day! – suddenly wanted all of its prospective championship sites to provide an affidavit stating whether they had any ridiculously stupid, openly discriminatory laws on the books.
And what did the ACC do?
It did nothing.
So when the time came this week that the ACC presidents were shamed into action by the NCAA, which pulled the first and second rounds of the men’s basketball tournament in Greensboro out of North Carolina along with a host of other NCAA events, the ACC was left with a long list of suddenly homeless championships, the first less than two months away, not to mention the football championship game that had finally found a comfortable home in Charlotte and the baseball tournament scheduled for Durham.
First of all, better late than never for the ACC, which followed commissioner John Swofford’s lead and buried its head in the sand for far too long on HB2. This should have been a bigger issue for the ACC, here in its physical and spiritual home, than it was for the NBA and NCAA. Who knows what Swofford’s end game really was, but after a long series of unequivocal coups that secured the league’s future for generations to come, he’s risked that entire, triumphant legacy with his tone-deaf inaction on HB2.
Now that the ACC has been prodded into action, it has to scramble to find new sites for 10 different championships.
Posterity may not remember keeping Florida State in the league or getting Notre Dame halfway in the door or the launch of an ACC Network (if that indeed happens in 2019), but it never forgets the people who stood still when history moved forward.
Now that the ACC has been prodded into action, it has to scramble to find new sites for 10 different championships. Some, like football, will be easy to move – Orlando, given its pre-existing relationship with the ACC, is a logical destination – and baseball will be in demand as well.
But the women’s basketball tournament, sadly, offers little in the way of financial benefit to potential hosts. Greensboro has been a model host out of obligation and tradition, in the interest of maintaining its strong relationship with the ACC in an era when it might make more economic sense to move the headquarters from Greensboro to Charlotte or Washington. There’s nowhere else with the same intrinsic motivation.
What a horrible irony: Greensboro, rated the Carolinas’ most welcoming city for the LGBT community by the Human Rights Campaign, would love to continue hosting the women’s basketball tournament. Instead, because of an anti-LGBT state law, that tournament is going to end up somewhere that isn’t nearly as excited about it.
It’s just yet another way HB2, whose supporters spuriously claim it preserves North Carolina’s quality of life, keeps chipping away at it.
It was a bad law to begin with, poorly written and hurriedly passed in a shortsighted partisan gesture that has now cost the state dearly. Its heralded bathroom clauses were unenforceable, their purpose already covered by existing criminal law; its heavy-handed restrictions on anti-discrimination protections were clearly state-sanctioned bigotry.
While those who pushed it through and Gov. Pat McCrory refuse to countenance repeal, it continues to cost North Carolina not only its reputation but sports and jobs and money.
These sports events employ thousands of people who don’t get paid if they don’t happen. There are television freelancers in North Carolina who just saw six months of mortgage payments walk out of the state. There are charities that staff concession stands that will have to find new ways to raise funds. There are security people who will now be sitting at home instead of standing guard.
So you can add the ACC football championship in Charlotte, the ACC baseball tournament in Durham and all the others to the list that already includes PayPal, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, the NBA All-Star Game, the NCAA basketball tournament and so many other wonderful things North Carolina lost because of HB2, the gift that keeps on taking.
Turns out HB2 did a great job of keeping things separated: Keeping the things North Carolina loves separate from North Carolina.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, email@example.com, @LukeDeCock