Chicago, IL – The furor over North Carolina’s Public Facilities & Security Act (known as HB2 or “the bathroom bill”) that took effect last April was reignited when the NCAA yesterday announced it will relocate seven championship events that were set for North Carolina in the 2016-2017 academic year. The events include Division I, II and III contests in soccer, basketball, golf, tennis, lacrosse and baseball that were scheduled for Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Charlotte, Greensboro and Greenville in early 2017.
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) commissioner John Swofford said the ACC, which includes four North Carolina colleges, will consider a similar move this week. The ACC has a football championship set for Charlotte in December.
The passage of HB2 — and its provision that individuals must use the bathroom of the gender indicated on their birth certificates — invalidated a Charlotte ordinance that banned such discrimination. And that could be a problem for any event, including trade shows and business events.
In fact, HB2’s passage had an immediate effect on trade shows last Spring, including the International Furnishings Market, one of North Carolina’s largest trade shows. Five groups immediately cancelled events in Raleigh, costing the city $732,000. Seven cancelled upcoming events in Charlotte and 13 others decided not to book. Another 36 groups that were considering Charlotte said they were hesitant about bringing a group to Charlotte because of the law. In all, lost business cost Charlotte about $80 million in direct spending within weeks of the law’s enactment.
In Raleigh, cancellations involved a security conference, a tech conference and a library conference, illustrating diverse opposition to HB2’s provisions.
The recent NCAA announcement was broadly focused, saying in part, “North Carolina laws invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.”
Governor Pat McCrory, who signed HB2 bill into law is touting its passage as part of his re-election campaign. His opponent for the November election, Roy Cooper, has focused on the potential economic impact of lost events — from sports to trade shows — to the state. “The (NCAA) tournaments pump money into our economy and give the state a chance to showcase its college sports tradition,” he said.
The state’s legislature is not in session to consider changes to the law —nor is there any guarantee they will do so when they reconvene in January.
Mike Butts, Executive Director of Visit Charlotte and Vice President of Sales for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA), said the CRVA is “disappointed to hear about NCAA’s decision to relocate seven championships and is concerned for the local communities in North Carolina that will suffer as a result of these cancellations.”
As a result of HB2, several states — including New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut — banned public employees and representative from traveling to North Carolina on business. The cities of Portland, OR, Seattle, San Francisco, West Palm Beach FL and Chicago did the same.
That ban applies across the board, whether those employees are headed to conventions or to cheer on their alma mater in basketball.
Ironically, the NCAA cited those state and city travel bans as one reason for moving the seven tournaments, saying the bans could include athletes, coaches and athletic administrators who would be unable to participate in North Carolina.