CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the months following March’s impulsive legislation regulating bathroom use and non-discrimination protections, the state of North Carolina has lost millions of dollars of revenue due to the controversial nature of House Bill 2. Celebrities such as Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam have canceled shows in the state, corporations like Pepsi and American Airlines have expressed their disapproval and their support of a total repeal, and four federal lawsuits have been filed on both sides of the argument.
Now, in one of the most financially drastic protests of the controversial law, the NBA has announced that it will be following through on its threat to move the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, where it was formerly planned to be held. This decision will cost the city of Charlotte and North Carolina as a whole an estimated $100 million.
The organization had long threatened to make this move if HB2 stayed on the books in its discriminatory form. In June, amidst rumors of amendments to the law that were minor at best, the NBA released a statement that it did not support such minimal changes.
Now, the NBA said in a statement, “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 organization believes that the purpose of the event is to “bring together all members of the NBA community — current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans,” including those who identify as LGBT.
The NBA’s statement alludes to a key result of HB2; the social climate of the state has changed severely during the six months following the legislation’s approval. From loud-and-proud protests against the law, to gatherings of faith leaders praying for support of HB2, there has been an undeniable environment of ideological conflict verging on outright hatred. This sense of bitter strife was reaffirmed by Gov. Pat McCrory’s response to the NBA’s decision, a statement which The New York Times described as “blistering.” McCrory condemned “the sports and entertainment elite” and other opponents of HB2 for “misrepresenting our laws.”
Outspoken opponents of the law have praised the NBA’s decision, including Chad Griffin, president of the national organization the Human Rights Campaign.
“Every day that HB2 remains on the books, people across North Carolina are at risk of real harm,” Griffin said in a statement. “We appreciate the leadership of the NBA in standing up for equality and call once again on lawmakers to repeal this vile HB2 law.”
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released another statement praising the NBA’s decision.
“On behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth across the country, GLSEN thanks the NBA for sending a strong and clear message that discrimination is unacceptable,” said Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard. “When the chips are down, true allies make the tough call. Right now, the defense of civil rights for all communities must be front and center for all of us.”
Political candidates have not missed the chance to comment as well. Linda Coleman, a candidate for North Carolina lieutenant governor, responded that the NBA’s announcement is “yet another sad example of how the reckless Republican agenda in Raleigh is hurting our economy.”
At the local level, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts expressed her deep disappointment, reminding readers that “Charlotte has shown its commitment to equal rights and inclusion and will continue to promote those values.”
The Professional Golf Association (PGA) seems to be inclined to follow suit with the NBA. The PGA said in a statement, “As we look to future events, our willingness to consider coming back to the state of North Carolina will be severely impacted unless HB2 is overturned.”
The PGA did, however, clarify that their upcoming tour will remain in North Carolina, citing that the Quail Hollow Club where it will be held “is a private facility not subject to all the provisions of HB2, at the 2017 PGA Championship we plan to allow spectators to use the restroom that conforms with their gender identity or gender expression.”
With such a major financial blow to the state, it remains to be seen whether the legislature will take action and perhaps call another special legislative session — this one to repair the damage that the infamous March session provoked.