The NBA has pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte after North Carolina lawmakers failed to repeal or repair an anti-LGBT law passed in spring.
The All-Star Weekend events, scheduled to take place February 17-19, will likely be moved to New Orleans, according to top NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports.
Attention turned to the NBA and the All-Star Game shortly after North Carolina quickly passed HB2 in March. The law removes anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people in North Carolina, and has faced heavy backlash for provisions that would require transgender people to use bathrooms that coordinate with the gender they were assigned at birth.
In a statement, the NBA said:
Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change. We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.
Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community – current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans. While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.
Gov. Pat McCrory, a leading proponent of the law, issued a statement Thursday blasting the NBA and progressive organizations over the decision.
“The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present," McCrory said.
The governor continued: "Twenty-one other states have joined North Carolina to challenge the federal overreach by the Obama administration mandating their bathroom policies in all businesses and schools instead of allowing accommodations for unique circumstances. Left-wing special interest groups have no moral authority to try and intimidate the large majority of American parents who agree in common-sense bathroom and shower privacy for our children. American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”
In April, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league felt it would be more constructive to work with the state to modify the law than to revoke the All-Star Weekend festivities.
The NBA reportedly worked with legislators to prepare a bill intended to "walk back" the impact of HB2. The proposal that emerged would have issued certificates to transgender people allowing them to use public bathrooms, but only if they registered their "sex assignment surgery."
The "fix" was widely criticized by LGBT and human rights groups. ACLU attorney Chase Strangio blasted the proposal, saying it would create a "government repository of private medical information about transgender people."
The NBA quickly distanced itself from the bill after four LGBT advocacy groups wrote to Commissioner Silver with concerns about the proposed legislation and the league's reported involvement in its drafting.
"The NBA has been actively working behind closed doors to help hammer out another discriminatory bill that would exacerbate some of the worst provisions in the HB2 law targeting LGBTQ people,” the groups wrote to Silver.
"If the NBA wants to be a champion for LGBTQ equality, then work with us to ensure full statewide protections for LGBTQ North Carolinians. But please do not cut a deal that would sell us out.”
The pressure apparently worked, as the NBA issued a statement on the "walk back" bill saying "we do not endorse the version of the bill that we understand is currently before the legislature."
In a statement Thursday regarding the decision to pull the All-Star Game from North Carolina, the league said:
We are particularly mindful of the impact of this decision on our fans in North Carolina, who are among the most passionate in our league. It is also important to stress that the City of Charlotte and the Hornets organization have sought to provide an inclusive environment and that the Hornets will continue to ensure that all patrons – including members of the LGBT community – feel welcome while attending games and events in their arena.
We look forward to re-starting plans for our All-Star festivities in Charlotte for 2019 provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.
Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets said:
We understand the NBA's decision and the challenges around holding the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte this season. There was an exhaustive effort from all parties to keep the event in Charlotte, and we are disappointed we were unable to do so. With that said, we are pleased that the NBA opened the door for CHarlotte to host All-Star Weekend again as soon as an opportunity was available in 2019. We want to thank the City of Charlotte and the business commmunity for their backing throughout this entire process, starting with the initial bid. We are confident that they will be just as supportive and enthusiastic for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game.
On Friday, the National Basketball Players Association released a statement on the decision:
The National Basketball Players Association supports the league’s decision to relocate the 2017 NBA All-Star Game from Charlotte. North Carolina is home to a sizable number of current and former NBPA members. They and our entire membership looked forward to participating in the All-Star week activities in the Charlotte community. However, the enactment of legislation that challenges the right of all Americans from discrimination threatened the ability of every attendee to enjoy the All-Star festivities. We join the NBA in the hope that the annual celebration of our game will one day, soon, be held in Charlotte.
LGBT advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said "the NBA and Commissioner Silver sent a clear message that they won’t stand for discrimination against LGBTQ employees, players or fans" with the decision to pull the All-Star Game from North Carolina.
The NBA repeatedly warned state lawmakers that their hateful HB2 law created an inhospitable environment for their 2017 All-Star Game and other events. Nevertheless, Governor McCrory, Senator Berger and Speaker Moore doubled down on HB2 and refused to undo their discriminatory and costly error in judgment. Every day that HB2 remains on the books, people across North Carolina are at risk of real harm. We appreciate the leadership of the NBA in standing up for equality and call once again on lawmakers to repeal this vile HB2 law.
Former NBA players Jason Collins, who was the first active out gay player in the four major men's leagues said: "As a member of the NBA family and as a gay man, I'm extremely proud to see the NBA take initiative and move the All Star Game from North Carolina. Their decision is an extremely poignant one and shows that discrimination of any kind is not welcome in sports and is not acceptable in any part of our society. The NBA has set the best kind of example and precedent moving forward for all to follow."
ESPN, which broadcasts NBA games, but not the All-Star Games, said:
"ESPN has demonstrated a strong commitment to inclusion. The NBA's decision is one which we fully support, emphatically illustrating that the league clearly stands for inclusion as well."
The NBPA has not issued a statement.
The NBA All-Star Weekend was expected to have an "economic impact" of about $100 million, according to an estimate given to the Charlotte Observer by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
Lindsey Adler is a sports reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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