The second day of the ACC’s football kickoff media event began with fire alarms ringing around the lobby of the Westin as players, coaches, administrators and media members conversed above the blare Friday morning.
The real alarm started going off for the ACC on Thursday when the NBA finally ran out of patience with Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina legislature and yanked the 2017 All-Star Game away from Charlotte after the powers that be failed to repeal House Bill 2.
Faced with that act of political will by the NBA, the ACC has no choice but to start pulling its events from its home state as well.
Starting with the football title game in Charlotte in December, if that’s even possible in less than five months, but certainly with the women’s basketball tournament scheduled for Greensboro and the baseball tournament scheduled for Durham, it’s time for the ACC to follow the NBA’s example and stop rewarding North Carolina politicians for shamefully discriminating against the LGBT community out of fear of nonexistent transgender predators.
The ACC has so far indicated it will only award future events to venues that can guarantee a safe, inclusive, nondiscriminatory environment. That’s basically following the NCAA’s rule of leaving existing events in place but not awarding new events to places with inhospitable laws, a policy codified in April with a new nondiscrimination questionnaire for would-be hosts. That kept the Final Four in Houston despite an anti-LGBT city ordinance there, and may yet protect the 2017 and 2018 basketball subregionals scheduled for Greensboro and Charlotte respectively.
Like the NBA, which gave McCrory more than enough time to broker a face-saving repeal, the NCAA made it explicitly clear at the Final Four that North Carolina has been warned. Time is running out. The NBA’s decision bodes very poorly for the 2019-2022 NCAA basketball bid cycle ongoing right now.
Normally, you’d expect Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte to host in three of those four years – Greenville, S.C., coming off of the NCAA’s Confederate flag ban, will get one – but the NCAA on Friday sent out its new questionnaire (interesting timing!) and there are no easy answers for North Carolina sites thanks to HB2, which requires transgender people to use public restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate and removes other protections against LGBT discrimination.
In the wake of the NBA’s action, it’s time for the ACC to take a stronger stand. There’s no cover now. A comparable organization in a similar position has acted decisively. Thursday, ACC commissioner John Swofford said he expected matters to play out in the courts and that the matter would be addressed at its fall meeting in October.
“Depending on what’s happened at that point in time,” Swofford said, “I’m sure our schools will want to have some further discussion about it.”
The ACC can’t wait that long.
To be sure, this isn’t Swofford’s decision alone. He is a powerful voice but the ACC has many stakeholders, from faculty representatives to university presidents, some of whom may have less interest in North Carolina politics or LGBT equality than others. Nevertheless, the ACC is a quasi-corporate citizen of this state, and it is now obligated to act, even before its fall meeting in October.
Moving the football championship would be a logistical nightmare, because an event that large is planned years in advance. Hotel rooms are blocked, venues reserved, tickets on sale. It may be difficult to pack up the whole traveling circus this late in the process, but not impossible. All it takes is one call, to Orlando, to Philadelphia, to the Meadowlands or Yankee Stadium. (To … Notre Dame?)
What a statement that would make.
It’s a simpler decision with women’s basketball and baseball and the football championship in 2017. Move them. Again, inconvenient, but far from insurmountable.
The same goes for the CIAA, which has denounced HB2 but reiterated Thursday it won’t move its basketball tournament from Charlotte. The CIAA doesn’t have the vast financial resources of the ACC, and therefore deserves a little more leeway, but it needs to take a more active stance, starting with its 2018 basketball tournament.
The NBA has moved the goalposts, to mix sporting metaphors. If the ACC doesn’t act quickly, its inaction becomes a de facto endorsement of HB2.
We are not this. The ACC shouldn’t be either.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock