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Opinion: Stop punishing Charlotte for something Raleigh did

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Will the 2017 NBA All-Star game be played in Charlotte? We’ll see. It hasn’t been moved yet, but things could still change.

Should it be played here? Absolutely.

If the game leaves Charlotte, it would be in response to House Bill 2, the controversial bill passed by the N.C. legislature last month that limits protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and which NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “problematic” last week.

I can see why the NBA could be compelled to make a statement with the game, to show that it cares about the rights of LGBT people. But Charlotte shouldn’t be punished for something the politicians in Raleigh did.

If you’re against HB2, you should love Charlotte. Our City Council is the one that earlier this year passed the LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance that got state Republicans all riled up in the first place. If you’re against HB2, then Charlotte did the right thing.

The six U.S. Senators who asked last week for the game to be moved said as much in their letter: “We hold no ill-will towards the people of Charlotte, who passed an antidiscrimination measure that HB2 overturned, or towards the people of North Carolina.”

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David T. Foster, III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

But if the NBA All-Star game leaves, it hurts Charlotte. It hurts the arena, the hotels, the bars, the restaurants and all the people who work around those industries.

Just like the at least 13 conventions that won’t be coming to Charlotte will hurt. The Westin said it lost $180,000 in convention business.

Just like PayPal deciding not to add 400 jobs in the city — jobs that would have had an average salary of $51,000 — hurts Charlotte.

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John McCabe, left, senior vice-president of Global Operations at PayPal, holds up a carved wooden bowl presented to him by Gov. Pat McCrory, right, after McCrory announced that PayPal, Inc. will open a Global Operations Center in Charlotte. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

There’s a lot to not like about HB2, I get it. And all of this would likely go away if the law was repealed or drastically changed. I also understand the desire of companies and organizations to make a statement against it, and in support of the rights of LGBT people. And I get that economic pressure is a strong motivator to make political change. But I hate to see those motivations hurt the city that passed a pro-LGBT ordinance in the first place.

Instead of canceling their concert last week, Mumford & Sons elected to give the proceeds from the show at Time Warner Cable Arena to a “local LGBTQ organisation.”

I hope the NBA does something similar — keeping the game here and using it as a platform to talk about the issue. Maybe make every restroom in the arena gender-neutral. Maybe invite prominent members of the LGBT community to have a visible role in All-Star weekend.

I just hope the NBA doesn’t take the game away and punish Charlotte for something the politicians up in Raleigh did.

Photo: AP Photo/Chuck Burton; David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer; Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer

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