The NCAA Board of Governors has voted “reluctantly” to allow North Carolina to be considered again as a host site for college sports national championships. The NCAA announced the decision roughly nine hours after the University of North Carolina won the men’s basketball national championship game.
In a statement posted at NCAA.com, the college sports organization discusses the factors that went into its decision. North Carolina had been stripped of college championship events during the past year because of concerns surrounding House Bill 2, the so-called 2016 “bathroom bill.” The N.C. General Assembly repealed H.B. 2 last week with House Bill 142, a measure that has generated its own heated debate.
“The NCAA did not lobby for any specific change in the law,” according to the statement. “The Board of Governors, however, was hopeful that the state would fully repeal HB2 in order to allow the host communities to ensure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for the championship sites.
“While the new law meets the minimal NCAA requirements, the board remains concerned that some may perceive North Carolina’s moratorium against affording opportunities for communities to extend basic civil rights as a signal that discriminatory behavior is permitted and acceptable, which is inconsistent with the NCAA Bylaws.
“However, we recognize the quality championships hosted by the people of North Carolina in years before HB2. And this new law restores the state to that legal landscape: a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.”
The NCAA places the statement’s fifth paragraph in bold-face type. “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.”
The seventh and final paragraph delivers the news N.C. boosters had been waiting to hear. “In the end, a majority on the NCAA Board of Governors reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina by our committees that are presently meeting. The NCAA championships previously awarded to North Carolina for 2017-18 will remain in the state. The board, however, directs that any site awarded a championship event in North Carolina or elsewhere be required to submit additional documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.”
N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, issued a joint statement responding to the NCAA decision. “We are pleased with the NCAA’s decision and acknowledgment that our compromise legislation ‘restores the state to … a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.’”
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, gave the decision a less-enthusiastic cheer. “Last week’s compromise was an important step forward for our state. While more work remains to be done, it’s good news that the NCAA will be returning to North Carolina. We will continue our work with them to fight for statewide anti-discrimination protections for LGBT North Carolinians,” Cooper said in a statement.
The LGBT advocacy group Athlete Ally, which prodded the NCAA and NBA to remove sporting events from North Carolina because of H.B. 2, was disappointed by the NCAA decision. “Today, the NCAA told the LGBTQ community — including their own students — that they aren’t a priority.” said Hudson Taylor, executive director of Athlete Ally. “The hypocritical decision to move contests back to the state of North Carolina will have detrimental consequences on LGBT players, fans, coaches and officials that have entrusted the NCAA to establish and maintain an inclusive environment at championships and events. It is a crass decision and they have chosen money over principle. We will continue fighting until all are truly equal.”
On the other side of the H.B. 2 debate, the N.C. Values Coalition offered a mixed reaction to the NCAA statement. “N.C. Values Coalition is pleased that the NCAA Board of Governors has decided to end their boycott and lobbying efforts against our state and are now including North Carolina bids to host future NCAA Championship events through 2022,” said Tami Fitzgerald, the coalition’s executive director. “The NCAA’s boycott of North Carolina achieved what it wanted — the repeal of H.B. 2 — proving that bullying works as long as you meet the demands of the bully; however, the NCAA had no business demanding anything of North Carolina lawmakers. Nondiscrimination laws in North Carolina — even under H.B. 2 — have always been similar to 29 other states and 10,000 other multiplicities.”