North Carolina is once again eligible to host major college championship sporting events following an announcement by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on 4 April 2017.
The NCAA Board of Governors’ decision follows the passage of House Bill 142 (HB142), a mesaure that state lawmakers have described as a compromise because it repeals House Bill 2 (HB2), which barred transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity and rolled back an anti-discrimination statute enacted in Charlotte that included LGBTQ residents.
The new law stipulates that only the state can regulate access to “multi-occupancy facilities” such as public restrooms and changing rooms, taking the issue of access out of the hands of cities and colleges.
HB142 bars local governments from implementing their own anti-discrimination ordinances until 1 December 2020, shortly after the next gubernatorial election. (Workers’ gender and sexual identity are not covered under the state’s workplace protection laws.) Gov. Roy Cooper said after signing the bill that it would stop Republican legislators from “adding provisions that permanently placed LGBT rights subject to referendum or allowed people to use religious beliefs to discriminate.”
The NCAA board said in a statement that although the new law (which passed on 30 March 2017) was “far from perfect,” it had “restored” the “legal landscape” that existed before the passage of HB2:
We are actively determining site selections, and this new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment. If we find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met, we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time.
We have been assured by the state that this new law allows the NCAA to enact its inclusive policies by contract with communities, universities, arenas, hotels, and other service providers that are doing business with us, our students, other participants, and fans. Further, outside of bathroom facilities, the new law allows our campuses to maintain their own policies against discrimination, including protecting LGBTQ rights, and allows cities’ existing nondiscrimination ordinances, including LBGTQ protections, to remain effective.
The NCAA also stated that any future championship event sites would be “required to submit additional documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.”
But two LGBTQ advocacy groups, the Human Rights Campaign and Equality North Carolina, accused the NCAA in a joint statement of “backtracking,” with the latter group’s president, Chris Sgro, saying:
It is disappointing to see the NCAA backpedal after it stood strong against the deeply discriminatory HB2. HB142 continues the same discriminatory scheme put forward by HB2 and does little to protect the NCAA’s players, employees, and fans. The NCAA’s decision has put a seal of approval on state-sanctioned discrimination.
In September 2016, the NCAA moved seven championship events (including a slate first-round mens’ basketball tournament games) out of North Carolina, saying that state laws at the time “make it challenging” to guarantee that athletes, coaches, and fans among others could enjoy an inclusive atmosphere at the events.
A month earlier, the National Basketball Association (NBA) moved their 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans, saying that “the climate created by HB2” would not allow the league to hold the event as originally planned.
We have contacted the NCAA seeking comment, but they have not yet replied.