The 2017 NBA All-Star Game is about to leave Charlotte, and no one really wants it to happen.
Commissioner Adam Silver doesn’t want to move the event. It’s a logistical hassle, for starters, and the league doesn’t want to inflict that kind of embarrassment on one of its owners. Especially this owner.
Charlotte’s mayor and City Council don’t want the game moved. Yes, it would be a validation of the LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance that started this all, but losing the event would cost the city both short term and long.
Pat McCrory doesn’t want the game to go elsewhere. He’s already in a race that’s tighter than it should be, given that he’s an incumbent governor of a state with economic and job growth. He doesn’t need a new reason for HB2 to be brought up all summer and fall.
And yet here we are. HB2 is almost four months old. The legislature has gone home. You don’t have to squint hard at Silver’s “calendar is not our friend” comments this week to see that things don’t look promising for Charlotte.
There’s one sobering reason for that, and one good one.
First, the sobering: What Republicans have wanted to happen with HB2 has happened. Momentum against the law has stalled. Businesses and performers have stopped taking bold stands. The headlines have moved on to other issues.
In part, this lull was inevitable. Our cable-driven short attention span was bound to turn elsewhere. But also, the transgender debate is now working its way through the courts. There’s no need for people on either side to pound a fist on the table when judges are going to settle things soon enough.
That’s why N.C. Republicans, at least some of whom were initially frantic about HB2, attempted only a weak compromise before leaving for home. Why risk constituents getting mad at you for giving in when you can eventually blame things on a liberal court?
Problem is, a quick injunction stopping HB2 is unlikely – a federal judge won’t begin hearing arguments on such a motion until Aug. 1. That leaves the fate of the All-Star Game not in Raleigh’s hands, or Charlotte’s, but New York’s.
This is the “good” reason Charlotte might lose. The NBA went where few organizations, and few companies, did. “A change in the law is necessary for us to play in the kind of environment that we think is appropriate for a celebratory NBA event,” Silver said back in April. Those are hard words to back away from now.
Cynics would say that’s what you get for taking a stand, and from a strictly strategic perspective, Silver might regret it. You can bet a communications consultant somewhere is already typing this up as an example of why it’s better not to get out in front of issues.
But that stand was a worthy one then, and like PayPal’s decision to cancel a Charlotte expansion, it encouraged others to do what they thought was right for the LGBT community.
All of which might happen again if the NBA decides to move its game.
This is the point where I say again that as an NBA fan, I don’t want the All-Star Game in another city next year. It also would be bad for businesses, including my employer.
But North Carolina has a bad law on the books, and lawmakers don’t feel any incentive to change it. It’s Adam Silver’s ball now. The calendar may not be Charlotte’s friend, but the shot clock is ticking down on the NBA.