After stripping Charlotte of the 2017 All-Star Game over concerns about North Carolina’s HB2 law, which broadly discriminated against the LGBT community, the NBA announced on Wednesday the city will host the 2019 All-Star Game following the state’s partial repeal of the so-called “bathroom bill.”
“We have decided to award NBA All-Star 2019 to Charlotte based on this deep connection and the belief that we can honor our shared values of equality and inclusion,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, “and we are excited to bring the All-Star Game back to Charlotte for the first time in 28 years.”
“While we understand the concerns of those who say the repeal of HB2 did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law,” added Silver. “Additionally, it allows us to work with the leadership of the Hornets organization to apply a set of equality principles to ensure that every All-Star event will proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies. All venues, hotels and business we work with during All-Star will adhere to those policies as well.
“Sports have a long history of helping to change attitudes around important social issues. We believe holding our All-Star activities in Charlotte will be a powerful way for the NBA to continue this tradition.”
A new bill signed into law by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper this past March repealed portions of HB2 that restricted people from using bathrooms based on their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth. However, critics of the new bill argue it did not go nearly far enough to prevent businesses from discriminating against the LGBT community. So, it strikes many as strange that, while the NBA acted swiftly and strongly against HB2, the league appears OK with a dulled-down version.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (left) and the editorial board of the Charlotte Observer (right) have different views of the HB2 “repeal." pic.twitter.com/bTP4Ivjqvy
Legislators and Gov. Roy Cooper hailed Thursday’s HB2 repeal bill as a compromise. In fact, it is nothing of the kind. It is a betrayal of the promises the governor made to the LGBT community and an entrenchment on discrimination by Republican legislators who have backed it all along.
House Bill 142 literally does not do one thing to protect the LGBT community and locks in HB2’s most basic and offensive provision. It repeals HB2 in name only and will not satisfy any business or organization that is truly intolerant of an anti-gay environment and of a state that codifies discrimination.
HB2’s most fundamental requirement was that local governments cannot pass anti-discrimination ordinances that govern public accommodations such as restaurants and hotels. Under Thursday’s agreement, that is still true, until at least December 2020.
And here’s the hammer:
Just as Cooper turned his back on the LGBT community, so would the NCAA, ACC and NBA if they endorse it.
And the NBA just endorsed it with its contention that “the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law.” Specifically, HB142 scrubs any mention of bathrooms from North Carolina’s law books, reverting to the pre-HB2 status quo of leaving the issue up to interpretation.
However, the new law still actively restricts local governments from “regulating private employment practices,” allowing for discrimination based on sexual orientation. In other words, individual businesses in North Carolina can still choose not to employ or serve members of the LGBT community.
The NBA is adamant it will not discriminate in such a manner, nor will its local business partners in Charlotte. The hope is that this practice will serve as an example for others in the area, which seems unlikely, since it’s hard to imagine any business that openly discriminates against members of the LGBT community will be open to changing its mind just because a basketball league came to town.
The repeal of HB2 put the NBA in a predicament, because North Carolina reverted to one of 30 states that does not extend federal laws that protect against private businesses discriminating based on “race, color, religion, or national origin” to sexual orientation and gender identity. If the league were to bar the Hornets from getting an All-Star Game based on the state falling short on LGBT rights, it also must exclude the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs.
And maybe it should.
When the league stripped Charlotte of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, it moved the event to New Orleans — home to a team that now plays in a state with even less protection for LGBT employees. (Louisiana, believe it or not, doesn’t even protect sexual orientation and gender identity in state employment.) Seven of the last 10 NBA All-Star Games were played in states with limited to no such protection.
The NBA deserves credit for pressuring North Carolina politicians to eradicate their discriminatory law. But if the idea behind opposing HB2 was to stand up for the LGBT community, this is no time to stand down. There’s still plenty of work to be done in that regard, and not just in North Carolina.
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