Unable to convince North Carolina to repeal a law that requires men and women to use restrooms consistent with the sex listed on their birth certificates, the NBA on July 21 announced it would take its ball – and the 2017 All-Star game – out of Charlotte and move to an as-yet undisclosed venue.
Media reports hint the new location will be the New Orleans Superdome – a facility with the same restroom policies as Charlotte’s Time Warner Arena, according to Tami Fitzgerald of NC Values.
But in their announcement on July 21, the NBA focused only on North Carolina.
“While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” the NBA said in a press release.
Gov. Pat McCrory called foul. Since its passage in March, McCrory has defended HB2 against vitriolic criticism, threats of economic sanctions, and federal lawsuits.
“The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper, and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers without the opposite sex present,” McCrory said.
The NBA announcement made no effort to explain the “climate” that has been created with the passage of House Bill 2. But Gregg Watkins, communications manager for Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts told me, “What’s changed is when something is extended and then taken away.”
HB2 rescinded the Charlotte law and similar ordinances passed by other North Carolina cities and replaced it with a uniform non-discrimination code applicable to all North Carolina municipalities. The state legislation removed the municipal LGBT civil rights status and requires people use the restroom specific to the sex on their birth certificates.
The law applies to government buildings and schools but allows private business, like Target, to establish their own policies. Confusion over the law’s application to publicly owned-privately operated venues, including Time Warner Arena, required clarification by McCrory. He issued an executive order April 12 allowing municipalities the prerogative of ceding public accommodation authority to the private operator.
“Consistent with an Executive Order issued by Gov. McCrory, the City of Charlotte has allowed private operators of certain city-owned facilities, including Time Warner Arena, to establish the policy for use of multiple occupancy restrooms,” Charlotte City Attorney Robert Hagemann told me.
In a prepared statement, Roberts took the NBA contract revocation in stride, denouncing the “discriminatory actions reflected in HB2” while commending the city’s “commitment to equal rights and inclusion.”
“I appreciate the NBA and our Charlotte Hornets being such strong champions of equality,” she said.
The mayor made no mention of the economic impact on the city or the potential loss of private and public revenue as a result of the NBA’s actions.
The NBA’s decision infuriated U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, whose district includes Charlotte. In a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Pittenger noted the organization’s hypocrisy as it expands into countries long-known for human rights abuses. He pointed specifically to China’s practice of “harvesting vital organs as part of their oppression of religious minorities.”
“Meanwhile, the NBA will start selling tickets for preseason games in China next week,” Pittenger wrote. “Is the NBA implying China’s abhorrent violation of basic human rights is acceptable, but North Carolina saying men shouldn’t use the girls’ locker rooms is a bridge too far?”
Pittenger accused Silver of “gross lack of judgment and moral clarity.”
Fitzgerald, an attorney and executive director of NC Values, suggested in a press release the NBA could be held financially liable for breaking the contract. The city and state have honored their end of the contract in preparing for the event, including renovating Time Warner Arena, she noted.
Fitzgerald said the NBA will be hard pressed to find a city with an appropriate arena, hotels, and restaurants, as well as a city or state ordinance allowing biological males to use the women’s restrooms.
“It is ironic that the NBA would choose to relocate their All-Star game to the State of Louisiana, since last month the state joined North Carolina and 22 other states to stop President Obama’s transgender bathroom directive granting boys access into girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and shower facilities in schools and universities,” Fitzgerald said.