A few more people decided this week that they don’t want anything to do with North Carolina right now. You probably recognize some, like Ringo Starr, but not others, like Ani DiFranco (although you should). But the next big N.C. boycott, the kind that would makes eyes saucer, might be coming soon. I’m not sure how to feel about it.
On Friday, at a regularly scheduled meeting, NBA owners will discuss whether the league still wants to hold next year’s All-Star Weekend in Charlotte. There’s pressure to move it, of course, because of HB 2, North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law. This week, six U.S. senators – including a Republican – urged the league to find another All-Star city. Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said the same. Charles Barkley added his always-thoughtfully-considered consent.
In Charlotte, HB 2 opponents are a little more torn about it.
We’re glad that backlash from PayPal to Deutsche Bank to Bruce Springsteen has our governor looking for a way out of this law. We’re pleased that no one seems to be buying his first escape attempt earlier this week.
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Still, losing the All-Star Game would sting. It’s a cool thing for your city’s brand, and local businesses won’t mind all the dollars that will show up for a few days next February. That includes your local newspaper, by the way.
So we like the possibility of an NBA boycott, and we don’t like it. And if that seems a little bit hypocritical, well, yes.
That’s a word – hypocrite – that’s been tossed around a lot lately in North Carolina. It’s what HB2 supporters raced to say about PayPal, which does business in several countries with poor human rights histories. N.C. Rep. Paul Stam helpfully provided a color-coded map of U.S. states where PayPal does business that lack LGBT protections – an interesting recruiting strategy for a lawmaker who talks so much about jobs.
Stam probably has another map ready for the NBA, which has teams in states with poor LGBT protections. Others have already pointed out that the league has had exhibition games the past couple years in China.
They have a point. Corporations can be selective with their moral outrage. They’re inconsistent with the stands they take.
Just like we all are.
We use phones made in factories that mistreat workeers and drive cars with fuel that originates in oppressive countries.
We pass on our morning Chick-fil-A biscuit because of the CEO’s stand on same-sex marriage, yet we bank with Wells Fargo despite its history of predatory lending.
Or, like evangelist Franklin Graham, we call PayPal a hypocrite and vow to boycott gay-friendly businesses, but we do it all on Facebook, which is even more outspoken about pro-LGBT causes.
Principles are hard, and making a statement is never as clean as you want it to be. Like most things in life, you try to pick your spots, and you hope you end up with a positive balance.
That’s probably at least part of what’s behind PayPal and Deutsche Bank, and the Boss and his Greensboro concert.
Maybe North Carolina moved so loudly in the wrong direction that they felt moved to make an equally loud response.
Maybe PayPal and Deutsche are doing what corporations have always done, which is reading where the crowd is headed and trying to stay in line with it.
Or maybe they thought that in North Carolina, unlike in some places, making a statement could make a difference.
And it can. The governor is fretting. His state is at a tipping point. If more companies and performers decide to back off on business here, then those who don’t are making statements, too.
Will the NBA be next? It would be a good thing and a hard thing and, yes, even a bit of a hypocritical thing. But it also would be the right thing.
Peter: @saintorange; firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction: A previous version of this column said that N.C. Sen. Phil Berger provided a map of places PayPal did business that had poor records on human rights. It was N.C. Rep. Paul Stam who emailed a map of U.S. states in which PayPal did business that had a similar lack of protections as North Carolina.