The ACC is pulling championships out of North Carolina over anti-LGBTQ law

Duke and Wake Forest are two of North Carolina’s four ACC programs. CREDIT: AP IMAGES
Duke and Wake Forest are two of North Carolina’s four ACC programs. CREDIT: AP IMAGES

Just two days after the NCAA announced they were moving scheduled tournaments out of North Carolina in protest of the state’s anti-LGBTQ House Bill 2, the Atlantic Coast Conference—which includes North Carolina’s biggest Division I programs like Duke, UNC, NC State, and Wake Forest—announced it would also relocate several of their conference championships elsewhere.

“As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination,” ACC officials said in a statement. “Every one of our 15 universities is strongly committed to these values and therefore, we will continue to host ACC Championships at campus sites. We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016–17 academic year.”

That includes the ACC football championship game, which has been played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte since 2010. In February 2014, the conference announced a deal to keep the football championship game in Charlotte through 2019. Men’s basketball, the ACC’s other preeminent sport, held its conference tournament in Washington, D.C. in 2016 and is scheduled to hold the tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next March. It was last held in North Carolina in 2015.

Charlotte has been hit particularly hard by Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) continued defense of HB2. In addition to losing the ACC football title game—which had an economic impact of more than $30 million in 2015, according to the city’s tourism board—the NBA announced that it was pulling the 2017 All-Star Game from the city in favor of New Orleans because of the bill.

The NCAA’s decision affected seven national tournaments across six different sports from all three divisions of collegiate athletics, including the first two rounds of the 2017 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, the NCAA’s most lucrative annual event.

But North Carolina is at the very heart of the ACC. Though it has membership extending from Massachusetts to Florida, the state is home to four of the conference’s 15 programs, including two of the most successful in Duke and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

“It’s embarassing for our state, and it’s cost our state immense money and jobs,” said longtime Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “But even more so, it’s hurt our image.” When asked on Tuesday if he hoped the ACC would follow the NCAA’s lead, he told Bloomberg Markets that he “hoped that they would.”

Duke Athletics Director Kevin White also issued a statement on Monday after the NCAA’s announcement, saying on behalf of the university that “we agree with the NCAA’s decision. Our position has been clear on this matter, which is that this legislation is discriminatory, troubling and embarrassing.”

Hudson Taylor, executive director of Athlete Ally, celebrated the ACC’s announcement on Wednesday.

“The ACC’s decision to pull its championships from North Carolina is yet another win for the LGBT community and is an acknowledgement that athletic championships should only be awarded to those states and cities that champion LGBT equality,” Taylor said in a statement.

“I am hopeful that losing the NBA All-Star game, the NCAA championships and now the ACC championships, will once and for all convince North Carolina legislators that they are on the wrong side of history and that LGBT athletes and fans deserve to be protected and respected on the field and under the law.”

Gov. McCrory or other lawmakers have yet to respond to the ACC’s decision.