Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford says the conference is likely to move its football championship game out of Charlotte again if a state law that limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people is not repealed or adjusted.
Swofford gave no timetable Sunday for a decision on whether to relocate the 2017 game but he did say the conference will not wait as long as it did last year to move the game.
If something changes in the state of North Carolina, that would be welcome. Our presidents made what they believe is a principled decision. … I don’t see that principle changing.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford
The ACC followed the NCAA’s lead and decided in September to pull its championship from Charlotte in response to North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill.”
The game had been the city’s second-largest annual event, behind the CIAA basketball tournament in February. The ACC championship game had been played in Charlotte every year since 2010 on the first Saturday in December.
“If something changes in the state of North Carolina, that would be welcome,” Swofford said. “Our presidents made what they believe is a principled decision in that regard as to where our championships should be held and shouldn’t. I don’t see that principle changing.”
The legislation known as House Bill 2 limits protections for LGBT people and is best known for a provision that requires transgender people in government-run buildings to use restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. It was passed last year after Charlotte officials approved a sweeping anti-discrimination ordinance. A deal to repeal the law fell apart in late December.
“We don’t have an exact deadline, but it needs to be sooner than it was last year,” Swofford said. “When that decision was made in September it was tough on fans, it was tough on the league.”
The ACC ended up playing its title game in Orlando. Swofford called bringing it back to Orlando a “viable option.”
“The people in Orlando did a marvelous job of putting together that game and managing it and working with us to make it as good as it could possibly be,” Swofford said. “They were just outstanding. But you really need time to develop, market and promote for longer than a couple of months a game of that magnitude.
“I would not see us waiting until that late in the game to make a determination on where we are next year.”
The next meeting with the ACC presidents is scheduled for March, Swofford said.
“If it’s repealed, I think I know what the answer would be with our presidents,” he said. “If it’s an adjustment and a partial repeal … I don’t know.”
The 2016 ACC game, which was to be played Dec. 3 at Bank of America Stadium, had been expected to draw tens of thousands of fans and pour millions of dollars into Charlotte’s economy.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB2 into law in March to nullify a Charlotte ordinance that had generated controversy by protecting transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity. The new state law also overrode local ordinances around the state that would have expanded protections for the LGBT community.
Critics have said HB2 discriminates against LGBT individuals, while proponents say it protects bathroom privacy.
The U.S. Justice Department has sued North Carolina, alleging that the law violates federal civil rights laws, including Title IX.
In July, the NBA opted to move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte over the law.
The Belk Bowl didn’t get pulled because of the way the event is organized. Despite being certified by the NCAA, the Belk Bowl has remained because the participating schools and conferences are the contracting parties, an NCAA spokeswoman said.
Staff writer Ames Alexander contributed.