It’s too late to save this spring. That ship has sailed. There will be no basketball in Greensboro, not of the ACC women’s nor the NCAA men’s variety. It’s not too late to save next year. And, perhaps even more important, it’s not too late to save the four years beyond that.
If the General Assembly indeed repeals House Bill 2, the infamous HB2, what still has the potential to be a historic drought of sporting events in North Carolina could, and should, revert to a one-year blip. Should something go wrong – and we’ve seen that a special session of the legislature is a very unpredictable thing – the door will shortly slam shut on the NCAA bid cycle that covers the 2018-19 to 2021-22 academic years, which will be announced in April.
Again, it’s important to note that repealing HB2 and its discriminatory provisions against the LGBT community isn’t going to change anything this spring. While the ACC declined to comment Monday, it had to do a great deal of work finding new homes for its championships, including an unusual partnership with Coastal Carolina to host the women’s basketball tournament in Myrtle Beach. As much as it would be nice to get that tournament back to Greensboro, or baseball back to Durham, that’s not going to happen.
Still, the sooner HB2 is repealed, the better. The more quickly the NBA can act, the more quickly the All-Star Game will be played in North Carolina, although it’s unlikely to be before 2019 in any case. The NCAA will make its site decisions for the next bid cycle well before April, and the better case North Carolina can make for the scores of championships it has bid to host, the more opportunities it is likely to receive during that four-year period. The longer HB2 lingers, and it has lingered too long already, the lower the raw number is going to be. A quick repeal should leave all of North Carolina’s bids under full consideration.
So time remains of the essence, beyond any post-election partisan concerns. An NCAA spokesman said Monday that nothing that’s already been taken away is coming back, but North Carolina’s championships for next year – including the first and second rounds of the men’s basketball tournament in Charlotte – remain on schedule.
Beyond the financial damage done by HB2, its impact on the sports world has gone right to the heart of North Carolina’s collective identity. Sports, at all levels, are an important part of the culture. Take that away, and something’s missing from life here. For nine months, we’ve dealt with first the threat, and then the reality, of being shunned by the NBA, NCAA and ACC.
The All-Star Game will be played in New Orleans. The North Carolina women’s soccer team had to play for the ACC title in South Carolina (the Tar Heels lost) and the NCAA title in California (they lost) instead of playing both at home in Cary. Clemson and Virginia Tech would have packed not only Bank of America Stadium but uptown Charlotte. Instead, the ACC football championship game was exiled to Orlando, in a stadium filled by freebies. Duke and North Carolina will likely start the NCAA basketball tournament in Greenville instead of Greensboro.
Repealing HB2 now won’t change any of that. The legislature was warned, by the NBA and the NCAA and the ACC. It was given chance after chance to repeal HB2 before more drastic action was taken, only to retrench, until now.
We’ve all lost so much, for so little reason. A vote to repeal can limit the damage going forward, but can’t repair the damage already done.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock