N.C.A.A. Moves Championship Events From North Carolina, Citing Anti-Gay-Rights Law

By September 12, 2016 November 15th, 2016 News Clips

SOURCE: The New York Times • September 12, 2016

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But Monday’s decision is sure to have real economic ramifications, and it could presage further activism by sports leagues against state or local laws they see as antithetical to their principles or disagreeable to their national fan bases.

“This is an incredible statement from the N.C.A.A.,” said Hudson Taylor, the executive director of Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization that fights homophobia and transphobia in sports. “I think this is making it clear that any state or city wishing to host N.C.A.A. championships has to protect and respect their L.G.B.T. constituents.”

Chris Sgro, a Democrat in the North Carolina House of Representatives and the executive director of Equality N.C., a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocacy group, said the decision showed that the law “is hurting our economy, our reputation, and our people every day.”

The North Carolina law, which was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory in March but is still commonly referred to as House Bill 2, nullified local government ordinances establishing anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But it gained widespread attention for its stipulation requiring people in publicly owned buildings to use restrooms that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificate.

Although the law’s supporters have moved to frame it as a public safety measure, critics have forcefully described it as bigoted and anachronistic. In a letter in May, the Justice Department asserted that the statute violated federal civil rights law, an accusation state officials loudly resisted.

The N.C.A.A.’s decision on Monday came less than a month after a Federal District Court judge in Winston-Salem issued a limited ruling against the law and said the 17-campus University of North Carolina could not enforce the statute’s restroom access provisions against three people who had filed suit.

The N.C.A.A.’s president, Mark Emmert, said in the organization’s statement: “Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships. We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events.”

But in explaining its decision, the N.C.A.A. emphasized the uniqueness of North Carolina’s situation, noting, for instance, that several cities and five states, including New York, have moved to bar state-sponsored travel to North Carolina. Such a ban could include college athletes and staff members, the N.C.A.A. said.

Already, the University of Vermont had canceled a women’s basketball game to be held at the University of North Carolina, and the State University of New York at Albany had canceled a men’s basketball game at Duke.

In addition to men’s basketball, the affected championships are for women’s soccer, women’s golf and women’s lacrosse in Division I; baseball in Division II; and men’s and women’s soccer in Division III. Some championship tournaments decide games based on home-field advantage, and Monday’s move will not affect any game locations dictated by the regular-season success of North Carolina-based teams.

North Carolina — Charlotte, specifically — is also home to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s annual football championship game, which is not administered by the N.C.A.A. In a statement Monday night, the conference’s commissioner, John Swofford, said, “H.B. 2 was previously scheduled to be thoroughly discussed at this week’s A.C.C. Council of Presidents meeting, so it would be premature to make any decisions or announcements regarding A.C.C. championships until our membership is able to discuss. The league’s longstanding commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion will continue to be a central theme to our discussions.”

Swofford added, though, “On a personal note, it’s time for this bill to be repealed as it’s counter to basic human rights.”

The office of Governor McCrory, a Republican, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and aides to the Republican leaders of the General Assembly were similarly quiet. But a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Republican Party, Kami Mueller, described the decision as “so absurd it’s almost comical.”

“I wish the N.C.A.A. was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor,” Ms. Mueller said in a statement, referring to a recent scandal involving Baylor University’s football program. “Perhaps the N.C.A.A. should stop with their political peacocking — and instead focus their energies on making sure our nation’s collegiate athletes are safe, both on and off the field.”

With Mr. McCrory embroiled in one of the nation’s closest governor’s races, Democrats quickly used the N.C.A.A.’s announcement to assail Mr. McCrory once more about the law.

“These tournaments pump money into our economy and give our communities and fans a chance to showcase our incredible tradition of college sports,” said Ford Porter, a spokesman for Roy Cooper, the Democratic nominee for governor. “Now, our ability to host these events at the highest level has been eliminated because of Governor McCrory and H.B. 2.”

Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocacy group, said in a statement, “It’s long past time state lawmakers repealed this vile law, and if they don’t, the majority of voters opposed to H.B. 2 will ensure they pay the price in November.”

A trial about the law is expected next year, but the decision by the N.C.A.A. could focus immediate attention on how the University of North Carolina has approached the statute.

After Judge Thomas D. Schroeder’s ruling in late August, the university said in a statement that it had “been caught in the middle of a conflict that we did not create between state law and federal guidance” and that it would “fully comply” with the judge’s 83-page decision.

Private institutions have not felt such pressure because the law does not apply to their campuses. In April, Duke University issued a harshly worded statement that called for the law’s repeal and said university administrators “deplore in the strongest possible terms the new state law.”