NBA returns All-Star Game to Charlotte in 2019

Advocates and journalists nationwide condemn the league’s decision

Although the notorious House Bill 2 (HB2) is repealed, legal discrimination against LGBTQ North Carolinians continues. Under the “compromise” legislation, House Bill 142, signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on March 30, much of HB2 still remains.

Though the statewide ban on transgender bathroom access was reversed, a four-year moratorium on local non-discrimination protections has LGBTQ advocates and allies up in arms. In addition, localities in the state are forbidden from enacting any regulations concerning access to multiple-occupancy restrooms, changing rooms, and other public facilities.

HB 142 has been largely neglected this news cycle, but one significant announcement has dominated headlines. Last year, the NBA announced that it would move the 2017 All-Star Game from its planned site in Charlotte, N.C. to the more LGBTQ-friendly city of New Orleans, La.

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Now that HB2 is repealed in favor of HB 142, the NBA has granted the city of Charlotte the privilege of hosting the 2019 All-Star Game, despite protests from LGBTQ advocates that the law perpetuates the discrimination of its predecessor. When making the announcement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver justified the league’s decision.

“While we understand the concerns of those who say the repeal of HB2 did not go far enough,” Silver acknowledged, “we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law.”

Activists were not appeased. Indeed, many argued that Silver and the NBA are now accessories to the legal discrimination that LGBTQ North Carolinians still face.

“The NBA’s decision to quickly reward North Carolina with a $100 million event rubs cash-covered salt into the wounds of the thousands of transgender North Carolinians subjected to state-sanctioned discrimination, and the nearly two million transgender people nationwide who have been harmed by the hateful rhetoric spread by HB 2 and its proponents,” responded Executive Director Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality in a statement.

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“We need to see concrete guidelines and policies put in place that will live up to the proposed principles put forward by the NBA designed to protect all of its players and fans,” said Equality North Carolina Interim Executive Director Matt Hirschy. “As we move forward with the NBA All-Star Game returning to Charlotte, LGBTQ people must be invited to the discussions between the NBA, the city of Charlotte and NCGA leadership to provide input and feedback on how to best protect LGBTQ people.”

“North Carolina’s discriminatory law prohibits the city of Charlotte from implementing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents and visitors attending the All-Star Game. Nothing has changed that fact,” stated Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof. “It’s critically important that people understand the gravity of this situation, which has had the effect of extending discrimination and endangering LGBTQ people across the state of North Carolina.”

Even sports reporters have commented on the hypocrisy of the NBA’s recent decision. ESPN’s Katie Barnes wrote a scathing criticism of the move.

“[This] marks the end of the alliance between businesses, sports and LGBTQ communities to fight the wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation sweeping the country. Returning to North Carolina sends the message that there won’t be repercussions for putting anti-LGBTQ actions into law,” Barnes pointed out. “The league wants LGBTQ dollars and also wants to be seen as an organization that cares about its LGBTQ fans and players. When the going got tough, however, the NBA got going.”

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