After HB2 Repeal, NCAA ‘Reluctantly’ Considers NC for Future Championships

— The NCAA will once again consider North Carolina to host championship events after state lawmakers last week rolled back House Bill 2, a controversial law that limited protections for LGBT people.

In a news release about its decision, the NCAA said its Board of Governors “reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina by our committees that are presently meeting.”

The NCAA also said that any North Carolina sites awarded a championship event will be required to “submit documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.”

“For more than 50 years, North Carolina has enjoyed its partnership with the NCAA, and now, with today’s announcement, we can look forward to the next 50,” Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said in a statement. “We look forward to joining with our local partners in welcoming the NCAA once again as we compete for events and bid to host a variety of championships that benefit the student-athletes, area sports fans and the local economy.”

The NCAA pulled seven events from the state in September for the 2016-17 season, including opening-weekend men’s basketball tournament games in March, and had threatened to blacklist North Carolina venues as host sites for events for the next five years because of House Bill 2.

Legislation enacted last week repeals House Bill 2 entirely, stating that only the General Assembly can regulate access to multiple-occupancy bathrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities. It also prohibits local governments from enacting or amending ordinances regulating private employment practices or public accommodations until Dec. 1, 2020.

“(The new law) addressed a number of concerns that led to the relocation of the NCAA championships,” the NCAA said. “As with most compromises, this new law is far from perfect.”

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“Clearly, they wanted a clean repeal of House Bill 2 as did I,” Gov. Roy Cooper said, “but it is important that they recognize the progress in this legislation and they recognize that, even though it wasn’t everything they wanted, that it was enough for them to come back.”

The NCAA said it is actively considering site selections for championships through 2022, and the new law has “minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment.”

Events for the 2017-18 season that have already been awarded to the state, such as opening-weekend men’s basketball tournament games in Charlotte, will remain in place.

“We are pleased with the NCAA’s decision and acknowledgment that our compromise legislation ‘restores the state to … a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships,'” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said in a joint statement.

The Atlantic Coast Conference had followed the NCAA’s lead last fall, pulling 10 neutral-site events out of the state, including moving the football championship game from Charlotte to Orlando.

But the ACC said Friday its Council of Presidents had voted to again consider North Carolina sites to host events. And that also ensured events already set for the state for the 2017-18 season would remain in place, meaning the football title game would return in December to Charlotte since it was contractually set to run there through 2019.

LGBT advocates have argued that House Bill 142 is not a true repeal, and gay and transgender people still are exposed to discrimination in North Carolina.

Equality North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign criticized the NCAA’s decision to return to the state.

“This new law is not a repeal of HB2. It doubles down on the dangerous lie that transgender people are a threat to public safety, and it doesn’t leave North Carolina the way it was before HB2,” Sarah Gillooly, policy director for the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement. “The NCAA must stand by its word and demand documentation of basic nondiscrimination policies before committing to any North Carolina sites.”

“The NCAA’s decision to backtrack on their vow to protect LGBTQ players, employees and fans is deeply disappointing and puts people at risk,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “After drawing a line in the sand and calling for repeal of HB2, the NCAA simply let North Carolina lawmakers off the hook.”

“It is disappointing to see the NCAA backpedal after it stood strong against the deeply discriminatory HB2,” Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro said in a statement. “HB142 continues the same discriminatory scheme put forward by HB2 and does little to protect the NCAA’s players, employees and fans. The NCAA’s decision has put a seal of approval on state-sanctioned discrimination.”

Meanwhile, conservatives contend that the threats by the NCAA, the ACC and others to bypass North Carolina as long as House Bill 2 remained on the books was simply “manufactured outrage.”

“The NCAA’s boycott of North Carolina achieved what it wanted – the repeal of HB2 – proving that bullying works as long as you meet the demands of the bully,” Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a statement. “However, the NCAA had no business demanding anything of North Carolina lawmakers. Nondiscrimination laws in North Carolina, even under HB2, have always been similar to 29 other states.”

“This announcement confirms that everyone wanted to put the bathroom debate behind them and that the ‘boycott’ was nothing more than an act to appease the left,” Civitas Institute President Francis De Luca said in a statement. “The reality is that HB2 was never as controversial as the media and liberal activists wanted us to believe. The manufactured outrage was mainly a tool for Democrats and their liberal allies to fundraise off of. We will be watching to see if the NCAA’s action matches their rhetoric.”

“The NCAA’s latest decision to accept the slight modifications the North Carolina legislature made to HB2 suggest either they decided to stick to sports or they are starting to ignore the small but rowdy agitators who have used the NCAA to fight their losing political battle over North Carolina’s public safety bill,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement.