LGBT groups are crying foul over the NBA’s decision to give the All-Star game to North Carolina.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced Wednesday that Charlotte will be permitted to host the 2019 All-Star game, after the North Carolina state legislature rolled back some elements of the anti-LGBT law HB2 this March.
“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,” Silver said in a statement.
Last year, in response to HB2, which regulated public restroom use based on birth certificate and barred municipalities from passing LGBT non-discrimination ordinances, the NBA took the All-Star game away from Charlotte and gave it to New Orleans instead.
The Associated Press estimated that HB2 would cost North Carolina $3.76 billion over the next 12 years, noting that Charlotte losing the All-Star game accounted for $100 million in lost tourism revenue.
But this March, North Carolina hastily passed a new bill, HB142, that repeals the birth certificate requirement but still prevents North Carolina state entities from passing their own trans-inclusive restroom policies and still bars local governments from passing non-discrimination ordinances until 2020.
The state’s new Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who had used the unpopularity of HB2 to campaign against Pat McCrory, said HB142 wasn’t “a perfect deal” but signed it anyway as a deadline from the NCAA loomed.
Although billed as a “compromise,” LGBT rights groups urged sports leagues like the NCAA and the NBA not to be “fooled” by the new law. But the NCAA decided to bring championship events back anyway. Now that the NBA is returning to the state, too, LGBT groups are none too pleased.
“The NBA’s decision to return to North Carolina while anti-LGBT laws remain on the books is troubling,” said Hudson Taylor, executive director of the LGBT athletics organization Athlete Ally, which worked with the NBA on the previous decision to move the All-Star game out of the state. “We’re hopeful the NBA and its partners will use this opportunity to invest in the safety and well-being of the LGBT athletes, coaches, fans, officials and administrators that continue to operate in a state that discriminates against them daily.”
Equality North Carolina, the Human Rights Campaign, and the ACLU of North Carolina all drew attention to the fact that North Carolina cities—Charlotte included—are still legally banned from passing LGBT protections under HB142 for another three years.
“North Carolina's discriminatory law prohibits the city of Charlotte from implementing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents and visitors attending the All-Star Game. Nothing has changed that fact,” said HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof in a statement.
“North Carolina’s new law does nothing to guarantee that LGBT people will be protected from discrimination,” added ACLU of North Carolina legal director Chris Book in a statement. “The LGBT community deserves clarity on how the NBA can guarantee an environment free of discrimination, as required for All-Star games, when state law continues to single out and subject transgender athletes, coaches, and fans, to unequal treatment.”
And to that end, Equality North Carolina called for “concrete guidelines and policies put in place that will live up to the proposed principles put forward by the NBA,” insisting that LGBT people be “invited to the discussions” about protecting LGBT people at the All-Star game.
In a statement early on Wednesday, Commissioner Silver specified that the NBA will “apply a set of equality principles to ensure that every All-Star event will proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies,” noting that all “venues, hotels, and businesses we work with during All-Star will adhere to these policies as well.”
In other words, although North Carolina state law doesn’t require it, Silver promised to work with organizations that will adhere to certain non-discrimination principles.
Later in the day, in response to a request for comment from The Daily Beast, NBA executive vice president of communications Michael Bass provided a detailed list of those principles, noting that HB142 “allows private organizations like the NBA to maintain and implement our own anti-discrimination policies and permits us by contract to ensure that the arena, our business partners, and vendors also adhere to these same inclusive policies.”
According to the list of principles provided to The Daily Beast, any All-Star game partner will be required to provide services to customers without discriminating based on “sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other legally protected characteristic.”
They will also be required to ban employment discrimination based on these same characteristics. And notably, they will be required to allow restrooms to be “open for use by all individuals consistent with their gender identities”—a requirement that would not have been possible under HB2.
On top of that, All-Star game partners will be required to hold any subcontractors to all of the above principles.
Taylor Carr, director of communications for the organization, told The Daily Beast in an interview that they remain “ongoing partners” with the NBA, proud of the work the league is doing with LGBT fans in other areas. Although the group finds the All-Star game decision “troubling,” they will continue to work with the NBA to ensure that LGBT fans are protected.
“At this point, we have to commit to working with the NBA to deepen its impact on LGBT inclusion and equality efforts,” said Carr. “I think the decision has been made, it’s troubling for many reasons, [but] at this point it’s about how the NBA and its partners can significantly invest in the community.”
The NBA has made its decision and LGBT groups seem to have accepted that it won’t be reversed. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be keeping their eyes on the ball.