By Aaron Beard
AP Sports Writer
The NCAA has pulled seven championship events from North Carolina, including opening-weekend men’s basketball tournament games, for the coming year, due to a state law that some say can lead to discrimination against LGBT people.
In a news release Monday, the NCAA says the decision by its board of governors came “because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections.”
“This decision is consistent with the NCAA’s long-standing core values of inclusion, student-athlete well-being and creating a culture of fairness,” said Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson, the chair of the board of governors.
The law — known as HB2 — requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide anti-discrimination protections.
HB2 was signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this year. A spokesman with McCrory’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday evening, but a spokeswoman with the state Republican party blasted the decision in statement, saying it is “so absurd it’s almost comical.”
“I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor,” spokeswoman Kami Mueller said Monday night.
The only championship events that can be hosted in North Carolina this academic year are ones determined when a team earns the right to play on their own campus.
The NCAA said it will relocate the men’s basketball first- and second-round games that were scheduled for March 17 and 19 in Greensboro. The NCAA will also relocate:
— the Division I women’s soccer championship scheduled for Dec. 2 and 4 in Cary, just outside the capital city of Raleigh;
— the Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships set for Dec. 2 and 3 in Greensboro;
— the Division I women’s golf regional championships set for May 8-10 in Greenville;
— the Division III men’s and women’s tennis championships set for May 22-27 in Cary;
— the Division I women’s lacrosse championship set for May 26 and 28 in Cary;
— and the Division II baseball championship from May 27 to June 3 in Cary.
North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham and North Carolina State AD Debbie Yow both issued statements Monday evening saying they were disappointed at the loss of the events.
“We certainly hope there will be resolution in the very near future,” Yow said.
The campaign spokesman for Democrat Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general and McCrory’s re-election opponent in November, said the law needs to be repealed.
“It seems that almost every day, we learn of a new consequence of HB2,” spokesman Ford Porter said. “… We need to repeal this law and get our state back on track.”
The NCAA’s move leaves the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game in Charlotte as the marquee college sporting event in the state this year as the men’s basketball tournament starts a two-year stay in Brooklyn, N.Y.
However, that event also could be in jeopardy. In May, the ACC announced that member schools discussed the law during their annual spring meetings and said it could impact whether the state hosts league championship events.
In April, the NCAA announced it was adopting an anti-discrimination measure that would affect the way the governing body evaluates bids to host sporting events and required sites to “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination.”
In a statement Monday night, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the governing body will delay announcements on future championship sites until early next year. That comes as it reviews responses to questionnaires required of prospective site hosts on how they would comply with the NCAA’s anti-discrimination measure.
In announcing its decision Monday, the NCAA stated current North Carolina laws “make it challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver” on that requirement.
The NCAA also took special note of four ways North Carolina’s law differs from other states. The NCAA pointed out that five states — Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington — and several cities prohibit travel by public employees and representatives of public institutions to the state of North Carolina. Those representatives prohibited to travel could include athletes, coaches and athletic administrators.
Monday’s action by the NCAA is the latest public and business backlash that has arisen since the law was enacted. The NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game to New Orleans instead of hosting it in Charlotte as originally scheduled because of the law. Duke lost a men’s basketball game from its schedule when Albany backed out due to that state’s travel ban, while the Vermont women’s basketball team has canceled a December trip to play North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Entertainers like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Ringo Starr have canceled plans to play in North Carolina. And PayPal reversed plans to open a 400-employee operation center in Charlotte.