Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday blamed politics for House Bill 2 fallout that has cost Charlotte and other North Carolina cities high-profile college games, citing the state’s pivotal role in the presidential election.
The Republican made the comments in a speech in Charlotte to the Hood Hargett group of business and civic leaders, just one day after the Atlantic Coast Conference pulled this year’s football title game from Charlotte amid the ongoing firestorm over North Carolina’s HB2. And on Monday, the NCAA said it would yank seven events from the state because of the law.
As he has done in the past, McCrory said boycotts were being inconsistently applied to the state, noting that the NCAA held its men’s basketball championship in Houston this spring even though that city voted down an anti-discrimination ordinance.
“I’ve got to assume it’s politics because this is the No. 1 state in the presidential campaign, this is the No. 1 gubernatorial race in the United States of America,” McCrory said. “I can’t prove that, but why would they not be doing this in Texas right now?”
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McCrory showed no sign of backing down from his position, which has also caused entertainment acts such as Bruce Springsteen to scrap North Carolina appearances. PayPal canceled plans to bring 400 jobs to Charlotte, and the U.S. Department of Justice has sued the state.
“We’re going to plug on,” McCrory said. “North Carolina is resilient. North Carolina is strong. North Carolina is inclusive. North Carolina is welcoming. And I am going to defend North Carolina.”
McCrory signed HB2 into law in March to nullify a Charlotte ordinance, which had generated controversy by protecting transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity. HB2 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.
Opponents of HB2 want to mandate that businesses and universities “recognize the definition of gender as what you think you are or the expression you like to have, not based on your anatomy,” McCrory said. “That is a pretty big change in society norms, which I thought deserves to be challenged. It’s going to be resolved in the Supreme Court.”
The ACC football championship, 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. The NBA in July also moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte over the law.
Referring to the latest boycotts, McCrory took aim at academic boards meeting “in private behind closed doors with no transcripts of what they’ve done.” He said the organizations were unfairly punishing the hospitality workers, rental car companies, concession workers and others who make a living from sports events.
“Do they feel good about this?” he asked. “It’s amazing.”
The governor also complained that he received no courtesy phone calls from the groups. Later, when he talked to G. P. “Bud” Peterson, the president of Georgia Tech and the chair of NCAA Board of Governors, he said his first comment was, “You could have called.”
Craig Jarvis of The (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.