The NBA fancies itself a progressive sports league, but that reputation took a big hit on Wednesday when Commissioner Adam Silver announced the 2019 NBA All-Star Game would be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, despite the fact North Carolina still has anti-LGBTQ legislation on the books.
Charlotte, home to the Michael Jordan-owned Hornets franchise, was originally scheduled to host the 2017 All-Star Game, but the NBA moved the event to New Orleans last summer because of HB2, North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law which, among other things, required transgender individuals to use bathrooms that corresponded with the gender on their birth certificate, not their gender identity.
North Carolina repealed the law in March, but replaced it with HB142, a bill that is still incredibly damaging to the LGBTQ community.
HB142 bans all North Carolina cities and municipalities from enacting non-discrimination ordinances until 2020, and prohibits cities and public institutions from passing any legislation related to the use of multiple-occupancy bathrooms, meaning the state will remain in charge of where transgender men and women go to the bathroom.
In other words, the law not only bans LGBTQ protections, it officially “others” the transgender community.
“While we understand the concerns of those who say the repeal of HB2 did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, adding that the league would work with its official venues to ensure everyone’s safety.
“Sports have a long history of helping to change attitudes around important social issues. We believe holding our All-Star activities in Charlotte will be a powerful way for the NBA to continue this tradition,” Silver said.
Of course, refusing to hold the All-Star Game in Charlotte until the league was certain that all its players and fans and coaches and administration staff would be equally protected under the law would have been a much more powerful way for the NBA to reinforce its commitment to social change.
“The NBA’s decision to return to North Carolina while anti-LGBT laws remain on the books is troubling,” Hudson Taylor, the executive director of Athlete Ally, an organization that aims to put an end to homophobia in sports, said on Wednesday.
Charlotte is one of only two NBA cities — Houston is the other — that does not have nondiscrimination ordinances on the books at either the city or state level.
The repeal of HB2 and the signing of HB142 happened practically overnight at the end of March, as the state faced an ultimatum by the NCAA to repeal HB2 or risk losing any NCAA championship games for the next six years.
Democrats in the state legislature, including Governor Roy Cooper, were initially hoping for a clean repeal of HB2, but Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly made that next to impossible. Instead, Cooper met with Republican leaders and drew up what the ACLU referred to as a “backroom deal” the night before the NCAA’s deadline.
Not everyone was fooled by the repeal of HB2 and the signing of HB142, though.
“From the perspective of the LGBT community, I don’t believe we have gotten rid of HB2,” Rep. Cecil Brockman (D), one of two out N.C. legislators, told ThinkProgress in March. “We’re just putting lipstick on a pig. We’re trying to dress it up and act like we’re doing something different.”
“I know the LGBT community is pretty upset, and they have a right to be,” Rep. Pricey Harrison (D) said. “Once again, we’ve marginalized that part of society.”
Chad Griffin, the President of the Human Rights Campaign, agreed.
Any ally of the LGBTQ community cannot support this new version of #HB2. There will be political consequences for those who do, Dem and Rep.
— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) March 30, 2017
The NCAA and ACC almost immediately rolled over, arguing that the dirty “repeal” of HB2 was enough for them despite the fact that it left the LGBTQ community — and transgender people especially — to fend for themselves.
There was still hope that the NBA, which frequently touts its commitment to equality, would take a bolder stance. But with its announcement on Wednesday, the NBA sent the message that it too is willing to compromise when it comes to LGBTQ rights.
Gov. Cooper said that this was “positive news” for Charlotte.