The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced Monday that it is pulling all championship games from North Carolina for the 2016-2017 academic year because of the state's discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ "bathroom bill," HB2.
"Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships," said NCAA president Mark Emmert. "We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans, and everyone taking part in our championships."
The seven previously-awarded events, which included two rounds of the highly-coveted Division I Men's Basketball Championship, will now be relocated.
According to a statement issued late Monday, "The NCAA Board of Governors made this decision because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections." In addition to being the only state with a blanket prohibition against individuals using a restroom in accordance with their gender identity, even if it is different than that on their birth certificate, North Carolina also has legal protections for government officials who deny services to the LGBTQ community.
The NCAA explained that these onerous and exclusive laws distinguish North Carolina, even among other locales that have passed similar bathroom bills.
Support for the move poured in from equal rights groups as well as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who wrote on social media that the organization was "right to pull the games," adding, "Discrimination has no place in America."
Meanwhile, the state GOP issued a response described by Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as "unhinged" and "sickening."
— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) September 13, 2016
Put forth by NCGOP spokeswoman Kami Mueller, it reads:
This is so absurd it's almost comical. I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men's and women's teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams. Under the NCAA's logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers and hotel rooms. This decision is an assault to female athletes across the nation. If you are unwilling to have women's bathrooms and locker rooms, how do you have a women's team? I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor. Perhaps the NCAA should stop with their political peacocking--and instead focus their energies on making sure out nation's collegiate athletes are safe, both on and fof the field."
As Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC and the state's only openly gay lawmaker, put it:
— Chris Sgro (@cristoferosgro) September 13, 2016
In his organization's response, Sgro added that, "The hits keep coming thanks to Governor [Pat] McCrory and the General Assembly leadership."
"From Charlotte to Greensboro to Raleigh and everywhere in between, it has become clear that the shadow HB2 has cast on North Carolina is hurting our economy, our reputation, and our people every day," he continued. "Pat McCrory clearly knew that signing HB2 would not just endanger LGBT North Carolinians, but would cost us business, tourism, and events like this. The answer: we must repeal HB2 and we must have real leadership in the Governor's office in 2017."
As for the law itself, while facing numerous court challenges it remains in limbo after the Republican-led state General Assembly adjourned in July without repealing HB2, and is not scheduled to reconvene until January. The partisan failure has, as HRC put it, left "tens of thousands of people at risk for discrimination and harm over the months to come."
As News & Observer sports columnist Luke Decock noted, the clock is ticking if North Carolina wants to have any hope of hosting events in the upcoming years. Decock writes:
...[T]he NCAA is also in the middle of a bid cycle for events running from 2019-22. If it’s willing to pull events from North Carolina with less than three months of warning, there’s no chance it's giving out any new ones.
The NCAA was supposed to announce those sites in December. It announced Monday night it would push that deadline back indefinitely, presumably to give North Carolina a chance to get its act together. But the danger is there: If HB2 is still on the books when the NCAA decides on those bids, basketball – and everything else – is going to be shut out for four years. And once that decision comes down, repealing HB2 won’t change anything until 2023.
"And why?" Decock asks. "Over partisan politics, a silly law that doesn't even have any enforcement provisions and serves only to sanction government discrimination against the LGBT community."