The NCAA says they are rethinking their tournament host cities, looking to avoid holding events in locations with poor LGBT laws and policies.
This comes in the wake of controversies around the NCAA’s men’s Final Fours taking place in Indianapolis earlier this year and in Houston next spring. Indiana passed an RFRA law allowing business owners to refuse service to gay customers and Houston voters recently overturned their city’s LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, known as HERO.
The RFRA laws in Indiana provoked a response from NCAA President Mark Emmert.
“We’re very serious about our core values and we want to make sure we can operate in an environment that is supportive of those values, so this is a very serious issue for us,” Emmert said in an interview with ESPN.
The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, also released a statement saying they would “closely examine the implications” of the law.
They are once again reiterating the importance of equality in deciding their future tournament locations, although they have already said that they will not move the Final Four scheduled for Houston in the spring.
“We’ll continue to review current events in all cities bidding on NCAA championships and events, as well as cities that have already been named as future host sites, such as Indianapolis,” Bob Williams, NCAA senior vice president for communications, told the Indianapolis Star in an email earlier this month.
In the Carolinas
There are no statewide protections prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for both public and private employees in either North Carolina or South Carolina.
The news out of the NCAA should put added pressure to adopt better, more inclusive laws protecting LGBT individuals.
An LGBT non-discrimination ordinance effort failed to pass earlier this year in Charlotte, but it is expected to come up for another vote with a more supportive City Council now in place. Evidence that not creating a more inclusive city is bad for business should help add to the momentum to get the ordinance passed this time around.
The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) signed a six year contract in September of last year to keep the basketball tournament in Charlotte. The event, which has taken place in Charlotte for years, has a huge economic impact, bringing in tens of millions of dollars each year. The CIAA also plans to move their headquarters to the city from its current home in Virginia.
Charlotte has also been tapped to host first and second round NCAA Division I men’s basketball games leading up to the Final Four, to be held at Time Warner Cable Arena in 2018. Raleigh is scheduled to host first and second round games in 2016, as is Greensboro in 2017.
Greensboro became the first city in North Carolina to pass an ordinance prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination in housing in January.
Let it be clear, now more than ever, that if the cities of the Carolinas wish to remain on the map for consideration to host major national events, leaders must take the initiative to put an end to anti-LGBT laws and policies.
Money talks. Let’s hope they are listening, and that the NCAA is doing more than just dishing out empty, pleasant sounding words.