Adam Silver, Commissioner of the NBA, announced last week that for the first time in league history, it is relocating it’s annual All Star Weekend to another city due to North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 (HB-2).
Is the move surprising? If you’ve paid attention, it shouldn’t be.
Since the legislation passed, multiple events and organizations have severed ties with events in the state in hopes of essentially punishing the local government economically.
Silver has raised concerns for several months in regards to the possible All Star relocation, and even went as far as to suggest that at some point, if the law is not denounced, he is willing to consider relocating not only the All Star Weekend from Charlotte, but removing the Hornets franchise away from Charlotte, one of the NBA’s longest tenured expansion teams.
So, what’s all the fuss about?
To sum it up for those not fluent in legal jargon, HB-2 basically does two things:
Many claim that this directly is targeted to single out those in the LGBT community. With corporations such as Target, who have now announced that in stores anyone can use any restroom that they feel they identify with, this topic has been hot on social media and the news for the majority of the year.
North Carolina as a state is at risk of losing $4.5 billion in government funding, and is losing whatever concerts, sporting events, and businesses that still remain in cooperation with the state.
With many artists and activities pulling out, the topic of whether or not it is socially acceptable to refuse service in the state is up for debate. Conservatives argue that the refusal to perform based on the law alone due to personal beliefs is contradictory to the backlash they felt when the religious bakery owner refused service to the same sex couple based on his personal beliefs last year.
As it relates to the NBA, it may not sound like such a big deal to relocate a single game away from the city, but it has been proven that the All Star Weekend equals a windfall for the host city every year. The 2015 NBA All Star Weekend in New York City generated $200 million in revenue for the city, an amount that large would be of enormous benefit to Charlotte. Charlotte is one of the smaller market teams in the league, and having the league and sports spotlight as well as the revenue it generates would be of monumental importance for Michael Jordan’s Hornets.
Jordan, who has been heavily criticized by fans and the media alike for his management skills in Washington, has turned the tide in Charlotte, with fans revived by the play of Kemba Walker and former Wildcat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Hornets have made the Playoffs two out of the last three seasons, and have seen attendance and overall interest at it’s highest level since the 90’s.
“We understand the NBA’s decision and the challenges around holding the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte this season. There was an exhaustive effort from all parties to keep the event in Charlotte, and we are disappointed we were unable to do so. With that said, we are pleased that the NBA opened the door for Charlotte to host All-Star Weekend again as soon as an opportunity was available in 2019. We want to thank the City of Charlotte and the business community for their backing throughout this entire process, starting with the initial bid. We are confident that they will be just as supportive and enthusiastic for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game.” Jordan, a Carolina native, told the media after learning of the decision.
So where do we go from here?
No host city has been announced as a replacement yet, but this is a devastating blow to the small market world of the NBA.
Before LeBron James left Cleveland in 2010, many speculated that exposure in a bigger market would benefit his career, and it did. When he returned in 2014, the economic impact for downtown Cleveland business was evident. In a study conducted by economists in Ohio, it was proposed that James has added an additional $100 million to the franchise itself, and has generated in part with the success of the Cavs, upwards of $150 million in downtown spending through local restaurants, parking, and shopping.
For small market cities, NBA teams can be the lifeblood of growth economically.
It remains to be seen where this season’s NBA All Star Weekend will be held, but regardless of that, the question must be raised.
Where do we draw the line with politics in sports?
We can argue all day about the morality of laws, beliefs, and ideas. But when does it become a point that cities are hurting economically all for the sake of proving a point? For Charlotte, losing the Hornets would be a disaster of epic proportions. With such a storied history and franchise that has such loyal fans, it would be one of the most polarized topics in sports history if the team is relocated.
Maybe this all seems exaggerated and far fetched, but is it?
If indeed, the NBA removes Charlotte’s NBA franchise, what about the NFL?
Could Carolina lose Cam Newton and the Panthers? The team that was just in the Super Bowl last season?
The NBA will be praised by the media for the decision, while the NFL, which has taken PR hit after PR hit the last five seasons, will surely be put in the same situation by the media and public if the Hornets relocate. But would they really leave?
Who knows, but as wild as it seemed to me as I thought about the immediate future for sports in North Carolina and politics in general, nothing really seems all that surreal anymore.
How did we get here? Where do we go from here? Is this the new normal for activism?
There are so many different ways to take this story, and no matter what your viewpoint is, it’s one you should probably be paying close attention to. We now live in a world where politics are in play more than ever. Because of the actions of state government, something that so few people interact with in our culture nowadays, a local economy, two professional sports franchises, and a sports legacy all could be impacted, and we are only witnessing the beginning of it.
Maybe this All Star Game is the only event that is effected in the sports world under this new law.
Maybe North Carolina retracts HB-2 and this all becomes an odd footnote in American sports history.
Maybe the NBA is the new Hollywood, where the social and entertainment culture has a greater impact than ever before, one where commissioners and front office executives have gotten tired of entertainment moguls having all the fun in politics.
Or, maybe we are beginning to go down a road we haven’t before in our society, one where the destination isn’t so clear cut or decisive.
Maybe we are finally starting to realize that the greatest games in NBA history weren’t played on a court at all.