North Carolina may be in the running again for hosting future Atlantic Coast Conference tournament games. And following N.C. lawmakers’ efforts to repeal the controversial House Bill 2, more sports could be coming back to the state, too.
It’s not yet clear where the NCAA, whose deadline state lawmakers had rushed to accommodate, stands. In a news conference with reporters in Phoenix Thursday evening, NCAA President Mark Emmert said it is up to the board of directors to determine if the association is “comfortable going back to North Carolina,” and that an update should come within a few days.
The N.C. General Assembly on Thursday approved a compromise bill that repeals HB2 – which sports leagues and businesses alike described as discriminatory toward the LGBT community – but restricts anti-discrimination ordinances in cities and counties. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the measure into law hours later.
“The recently passed legislation allows the opportunity to reopen the discussion with ACC Council of Presidents regarding neutral site conference championships being held in North Carolina,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement.
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Discussions about tournaments in the state will take place in the “near future,” Swofford said, and any announcements from the conference will come after that.
In September, the ACC pulled all neutral-site title games that were set to be played in North Carolina in the 2016-17 school year, including its football title game from Charlotte, over HB2. Charlotte’s visitor arm estimates the game is one of the city’s biggest annual events, with an estimated economic impact of $32.4 million in 2015.
The ACC’s move came days after the NCAA pulled seven championship events out of North Carolina.
The NCAA, which is about to begin making championship site selections for 2018-2022, had indicated North Carolina had by midday Thursday to amend HB2. The NCAA – along with the ACC, NBA and CIAA – all pulled games from North Carolina over HB2 this academic year.
Emmert said Thursday that the board will review the new law in hopes of announcing a decision early next week.
“I’m personally very pleased that they have a bill to debate and discuss,” Emmert said during his annual news conference at the Final Four. “The politics of this in North Carolina are obviously very, very difficult. But they have passed a bill now, and it'll be a great opportunity for our board to sit and debate and discuss it.”
Cooper said in a press conference Thursday: “Today, we repealed HB2. It wasn’t a perfect deal or my preferred solution, but an important first step for our state.”
“Sports are coming back. The ticket takers, the housekeeping staff, and parking attendants working at arenas around our state will have more money in their pockets,” Cooper said in a subsequent statement.
Charlotte is bidding to host men’s NCAA basketball tournament games at the Spectrum Center for three years – 2020-2022. Greensboro is bidding on the next four years of men’s and women’s basketball games (2019-2022), and four years of swimming and diving championships in various divisions.
The NBA, which pulled its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte in opposition to HB2, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Commissioner Adam Silver has said repeatedly that the league will reserve the 2019 All-Star Weekend for Charlotte if sufficient changes are made to HB2.