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NCAA Pulls Championships Out Of North Carolina, Cites HB2

UNC Basketball, Tar Heels
Bob Leverone
AP Photo

Updated 3:55 p.m.

The NCAA Board of Governors announced Monday night that it was pulling seven championship events from North Carolina, due to the state’s HB2 law.

In a press release, the NCAA Board emphasized that "NCAA championships and events must promote an inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans. Current North Carolina state laws make it challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver on that commitment if NCAA events remained in the state."

"Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in the release. "We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans and everyone taking part in our championships."

HB2's aftermath continues

HB2 was passed in March by the Republican majority in a special, one-day session of the General Assembly, and Governor Pat McCrory signed it. The law requires people to use public restrooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate. It also limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

Democratic state lawmakers on Tuesday called for a special session to repeal HB2. State Senator Terry Van Duyn of Buncombe County said the decision was another blow to the state's economy.

"The loss of jobs in the financial sector, the film industry, special events, and now North Carolina's pride and joy, college sports," Van Duyn said.

The call to repeal HB2 is largely symbolic, as Republican leaders have given no indication that they will consider it. 

Events being moved out of NC

The 2016-17 events being moved out of North Carolina include the Division I Women’s Soccer Championship in Cary, and first and second round NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games in Greensboro.

The Greensboro Coliseum last hosted NCAA men’s tournament games in 2012. Attendance was 19,000 per session and there were three sessions. The Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the economic impact of the NCAA announcement at $14.6 million.

McCrory condemned the NCAA's decision to pull championship events out of North Carolina due to HB2. The governor issued a statement saying the association failed to show respect for the judicial system as lawsuits against HB2 make their way through the courts. 

"I strongly encourage all public and private institutions to both respect and allow our nation’s judicial system to proceed without economic threats or political retaliation toward the 22 states that are currently challenging government overreach," McCrory said. "Sadly, the NCAA, a multi-billion dollar, tax-exempt monopoly, failed to show this respect at the expense of our student athletes and hard-working men and women."

Others weigh in on the NCAA's decision

Other leaders around the state weighed in on the decision Tuesday. In a statement, North Carolina GOP Spokeswoman Kami Mueller said:

"This is so absurd it's almost comical. I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams. Under the NCAA's logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers and hotel rooms. This decision is an assault to female athletes across the nation. If you are unwilling to have women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, how do you have a women's team? I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor. Perhaps the NCAA should stop with their political peacocking— and instead focus their energies on making sure our nation’s collegiate athletes are safe, both on and off the field.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper’s campaign responded with its own statement on Monday night. Cooper for NC Spokesman Ford Porter said:

“It seems that almost every day, we learn of a new consequence of HB2. Hosting NCAA championship events has long been a point of pride for North Carolina. These tournaments pump money into our economy and give our communities and fans a chance to showcase our incredible tradition of college sports. Now, our ability to host these events at the highest level has been eliminated because of Governor McCrory and HB 2. Enough - We need to repeal this law and get our state back on track.”

UNC President Margaret Spellings offered her own reaction to the NCAA's announcement:

“We are surprised and disappointed by the NCAA’s decision and regret the impact it will have on North Carolina's student-athletes, coaches, athletic staffs, fans, and the North Carolina communities previously chosen to host these championship events. As reflected in long-standing University policy, UNC campuses do not discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, and we are fully committed to being open and welcoming to individuals of all backgrounds. We remain caught in the middle of a conflict between state law and federal guidance, and we welcome a speedy resolution of these issues by the court.”

Duke University Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White also released a statement on the NCAA's decision:

“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. We deplore any efforts to deprive individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, of legal protection and rights. We will always be committed to diversity and inclusion, and applaud any efforts to ensure that those values are protected and enacted at all times, and in all places in the state of North Carolina.”

Civitas President Francis De Luca described the decision from the NCAA as "shameful":

"It is clear they do not understand real discrimination. China, where true discrimination and human rights violations occur, is OK for games, but a state that is just trying to protect young girls and women is somehow off-limits. Between this and their choice to do nothing about schools graduating athletes who can't read, and to do nothing about the rape of females by athletes at Baylor, it is clear the NCAA is a bunch of hypocrites. It shows they're more interested in politics than academic and athletic excellence."

In his own statement, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin praised the decision:

“The NCAA just sent a clear message to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and state lawmakers that it will not tolerate hateful laws targeting student athletes, fans, and employees. Every day that HB2 remains on the books, countless people across North Carolina are at risk of real harm. NCAA President Mark Emmert has shown tremendous leadership by taking a bold stand for equality in the face of discrimination. It’s long past time state lawmakers repealed this vile law, and if they don’t, the majority of voters opposed to HB2 will ensure they pay the price in November.”

In a TV ad airing across the state, McCrory defends HB2 and asks: "Are we really talking about this? Does the desire to be politically correct outweigh our children's privacy and safety? Not on my watch."

Earlier this summer, the NBA announced it was moving its All-Star Game out of Charlotte.

Will Michaels contributed to this report.

Elizabeth “Liz” Baier is WUNC’s Digital News Editor. She's a first-generation Colombian-American fluent in Spanish. She has two decades of experience than span print, audio, and digital reporting and editing.
Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Feature News Editor. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
Jeff Tiberii covers politics for WUNC. Before that, he served as the station's Greensboro Bureau Chief.
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