Why the NCAA and NBA Should Not Return to North Carolina

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Why the NCAA and NBA Should Not Return to North Carolina

In April 2017, both the NCAA and NBA announced that they would reconsider holding events in North Carolina after the repeal of HB2.  Unfortunately, HB142 is even worse than HB2 was.

While HB142 does repeal the awful HB2, it bans non-discrimination ordinances for three years and prevents any ordinances from regulating public accommodations.  Thus transgender people would not be offered any protections should I travel to North Carolina.

If you don’t know me, I used to write for Wildcat Blue Nation and Redbird Rants, where I also served as a site editor from December 2012 through the end of April 2015.  Oh yeah, I’m also a transgender woman so these awful bathroom bills are very personal to me because if I can’t exist in a public restroom, I can’t exist in public spaces.

I saw some of the comments that were made by Kentucky fans in September when the NCAA originally pulled out of North Carolina and quite a few of them were very transphobic.  Listen, I dislike Duke and North Carolina as much as the next Kentucky fan does but the events that transpired to pull out of North Carolina are not a joking matter.  It would be nice if the state of North Carolina was not a default home game in the first and second round for the likes of Duke and UNC every year as a program like Kentucky always plays outside of the commonwealth unless the Yum Center is hosting.  There have been many transgender people killed alone this year.  We’re on pace for a record number being murdered and this is not something to joke about.

The ACLU of North Carolina released a statement a month ago when the NCAA announced their return to North Carolina.  They also sought out public records request for several institutions to find out what they were going to do to ensure the safety of transgender people.

“North Carolina’s new law does nothing to guarantee that LGBT people will be protected from discrimination, and as the NCAA’s own statement acknowledges, the rights of trans student-athletes, coaches, and fans in particular remain in legal limbo,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project. “This is not an environment that protects people from discrimination.”

It isn’t just that HB142 leads to a three year ban on non-discrimination ordinances but the fact that the bill prevents ANY legislation from being passed in which it guarantees transgender people the right to use the bathroom matching their gender identity.

“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,” said Sarah Gillooly, Policy Director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “The NCAA must stand by its word and demand documentation of basic nondiscrimination policies before committing to any North Carolina sites.”

While there may not be a bathroom bill on the books right now, there can be no non-discrimination ordinances with regards to public accommodations, not for a few more years.

“HB142 is part of a long debate about how much discrimination is the right amount in North Carolina,” said Ames Simmons, Director of Transgender Policy for Equality NC.  “For four years, local governments can’t protect fans or players from discrimination in public accommodations. Even after 2020, they can’t protect the ability of transgender fans or players to use facilities without discrimination. It’s a roll of the dice for LGBTQ fans and players.”

What about transgender students, fans, or members of the media on campus?

“The NCAA has clearly made a hasty decision without looking at all of the implications of HB 142—or more accurately, HB 2.0,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.  “North Carolina most certainly is not a ‘safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for all those watching and participating in [NCAA] events,’ as the NCAA wants it to be. Under HB 2.0, it is impossible to hold an event in North Carolina while ensuring that transgender athletes, fans, and coaches are protected from discrimination. As long as this law is in place, the University of North Carolina has its hands tied: under HB 142, it is simply illegal for public universities like UNC to protect transgender people from discrimination. And even if championship events are held at private colleges with anti-discrimination measures in place, transgender people will still be subject to discriminatory laws as soon as they step off campus. The NCAA said it would require sites in North Carolina to submit additional documentation showing how the venue would ensure that students and fans are protecting from discrimination—a condition that no venue in North Carolina can meet under HB 142—and we will be watching to ensure that the NCAA enforces this condition responsibly.

“Championship games aside, students at the University of North Carolina’s 17 campuses are all subject to HB 2.0. Transgender student-athletes will live under the shadow of this discriminatory law even in their off-seasons. They look to organizations like the NCAA to take a stand against discrimination and mistreatment year-round—not buckle under political pressure and abandon them.”

San Antonio is currently scheduled to host the 2018 Men’s Final Four.  This championship could very well be taken away and awarded to another city should the state of Texas pass their bathroom bill.  The National Conference of State Legislatures is tracking every bathroom bill across the country during the 2017 session.

It’s important to have non-discrimination policies in place for public accommodations in any city.  I would want to know what kind of laws are on the books in any city I am traveling to, especially when it’s something that affects my safety.  The way things stand in North Carolina, it’s not illegal to fire someone for being LGBT and that’s something that should stop the NCAA, NBA, or any professional sports league from awarding events to these states.

Danielle Solzman
Danielle Solzman
Danielle is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them.

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