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State-Sanctioned Discrimination? Apparently, The NCAA Is OK With That

Peter May writes that NCAA President Mark Emmert should immediately send out a statement saying the organization...will continue not to have its events in North Carolina, a state that codifies discrimination. Pictured: Emmert answers a question at a news conference on March 30, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (Matt York/AP)
Peter May writes that NCAA President Mark Emmert should immediately send out a statement saying the organization...will continue not to have its events in North Carolina, a state that codifies discrimination. Pictured: Emmert answers a question at a news conference on March 30, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (Matt York/AP)
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It was never about the bathrooms.

Most of the media (“bathroom bill” is so much easier to write than “state-sanctioned discrimination against the LGBT community”) focused on the bathroom provision of HB2, that nuanced piece of legislation passed last year by the hapless cabal of North Carolina legislators and signed by an equally hapless governor. That was also the focus in the vocal support of the law – we don’t want those transgenders in the wrong bathrooms!

Never mind that, while objectionable, the bathroom part of HB2 — the part that said people must use bathrooms based on their gender at birth — was also pretty much unenforceable. The real problem with HB2 was that it prevented local governments from extending civil rights protections to gay and transgender people.

“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.”

Chris Sgro, NC Equality Executive Director

It was state-sanctioned discrimination, pure and simple and the NCAA, the NBA and others (Bruce Springsteen) saw the piece of vile legislation for what it was.

So, last summer, the NBA announced that it would move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans. Last fall, the NCAA pulled seven events out of the state — a move that the North Carolina Sports Association estimated cost the state $250 million.

Last week, those geniuses in the North Carolina Legislature came up with a “compromise bill” – HB142 - which removed the bathroom provision. The Legislature did not, as the NCAA and NBA asked originally, repeal the bill. Instead, the new bill still prevents communities from enacting ordinances to protect the civil rights of gay and transgender individuals – until 2020.

That was good enough for the Einsteins at the NCAA to announce that it “reluctantly” agreed to consider North Carolina as a host for its events again. Apparently, state-sanctioned discrimination is fine with the NCAA as long as it carries an expiration date.

What are they thinking? When the NCAA decided to pull its events from the state after HB2 passed, Mark Emmert, the organization’s president, said, “We think some of these laws are movements in a direction that are not supportive of what we stand for and make it very, very hard, if not impossible, for us to operate in those states or those municipalities.”

What has changed? Nothing.

The executive director of Equality NC saw right through the NCAA’s weasely action. “It is disappointing to see the NCAA backpedal after it stood strong against the deeply discriminatory HB2,’’ Chris Sgro said in a statement. “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.”

Bingo.

Emmert should immediately send out a statement saying the organization acted prematurely and will continue not to have its events in a state that codifies discrimination.

Apparently, state-sanctioned discrimination is fine with the NCAA, as long as it carries an expiration date.

What makes this even more infuriating is that the Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who unseated the clueless Pat McCrory, signed the bill. Cooper may face a veto-proof Republican majority in the legislature, but is that a reason to go along with this insidious piece of legislation? Apparently, it is, so long as it brings basketball tournaments to the state.

It will be interesting to see how the NBA responds. The league is holding its Board of Governors meetings this week, and the issue of re-awarding an All-Star Game to Charlotte is sure to be discussed. Let’s hope Commissioner Adam Silver and the owners see right through this ridiculous charade and call it for what it is.

The NCAA clearly didn’t. Its response may have been tepid, but its overall message is clear: We’re so relieved you can now use the bathroom that corresponds to your sexual identity and, oh yeah, we’re also fine with a state that discriminates.

Related:

Peter May Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Peter May was a sports writer at the Boston Globe for nearly two decades. He now teaches journalism at Brandeis University and is an occasional contributor to the New York Times.

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