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CIAA will keep basketball tournaments in Charlotte, but move other sports events over HB2

Livingstone's Jimmy Wilson, #33 and Nasir Austin, #44 battle for a rebound in the second half. Virginia State University maintained a lead over Livingstone College in the second half of the CIAA men’s championship game in uptown Charlotte on Feb. 27, 2016.
Livingstone's Jimmy Wilson, #33 and Nasir Austin, #44 battle for a rebound in the second half. Virginia State University maintained a lead over Livingstone College in the second half of the CIAA men’s championship game in uptown Charlotte on Feb. 27, 2016. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Chalk up another sports conference moving events out of North Carolina in response to House Bill 2: The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association said Friday that it will relocate eight out of 10 sports championships from the state.

The signature event next year – the 2017 women’s and men’s basketball championship tournaments – will remain in Charlotte, however.

“Relocation would not be in the best interest of the membership and its student-athletes at this time,” the CIAA said in a statement, also citing time constraints and contractual obligations.

The events being moved are men’s and women’s cross country, football, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and women’s tennis.

“The CIAA’s transition, beginning with the relocation of eight championships, is the first step in demonstrating that the conference does not support laws which prevent communities from effectively protecting student-athletes and fans,” the conference said. “The Board will continue its discussion on hosting future championships in North Carolina and whether the tournament will remain after 2017.”

The CIAA has hosted its February basketball games in Charlotte since 2006, and the next tournament is scheduled for Feb. 21-25 at the Spectrum Center uptown.

The conference said soon after the passage this spring of HB2, which limits protections for LGBT individuals, that as members of the NCAA, it opposed the bill. But it hadn’t moved any games until Friday. The NBA, NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference have already relocated events from the state over the law.

In its announcement Friday, the CIAA did not mention the protests that broke out in Charlotte last week following the fatal shooting of a black civilian named Keith Lamont Scott. But some speculated that ongoing tensions could further complicate the decision of the CIAA, the country’s oldest African-American sports conference.

Last week, Fayetteville State University Chancellor James Anderson said if the CIAA moves its tournament from Charlotte, the school could lose more than $1 million in miscellaneous fees and event downpayments, the Fayetteville Observer reported. The school would lose out on another $6 million in scholarship funds, Anderson added. The recent protests would impact the decision, he said, because “some have called for a boycott of the city.”

The CIAA was in a complicated position. When it announced it would renew its contract with Charlotte for six more years in 2014, the league also said it would relocate its headquarters here from Hampton, Va. Furthermore, eight of the CIAA’s 12 member schools are located in North Carolina.

The NBA said in July it was moving its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte over opposition to HB2. The league’s decision marked the first major sports-related fallout from HB2 – the CRVA estimates the weekend could have had a total economic impact of up to $100 million. The NCAA and ACC announced their moves in September.

The string of cancellations have left city and tourism officials scrambling to fill the void.

“This has been the largest amount of impacts we’ve felt so close together,” said Laura White, CRVA’s communications director.

The CRVA estimates that the 2015 CIAA tournament in Charlotte had a total economic impact of $55.1 million, making it one of Charlotte’s biggest annual events.

“We will continue to collaborate with the CIAA to ensure their student athletes and attendees have a positive and safe experience when coming to Charlotte. Their conference is part of the fabric of our community and we’re proud to work together in ways that create meaningful dialogue and produce an improved tournament atmosphere overall,” CRVA CEO Tom Murray said in a statement Friday.

It’s possible that HB2 could still cost other scheduled games or deter other sporting events from even considering North Carolina down the line, experts say.

Charlotte also hosts the Belk Bowl, which is scheduled to be played Dec. 29 at Bank of America Stadium. The game is operated by the Charlotte Sports Foundation but has to be certified by the NCAA. It’s still unclear whether the NCAA will pull its certification of the game.

Gov. Pat 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.

An effort to reach a compromise on HB2 has not come to fruition so far. McCrory has said the issue of “redefining gender and basic norms of privacy” will be resolved in federal courts.

“I strongly encourage all public and private institutions to both respect and allow our nation’s judicial system to proceed without economic threats or political retaliation toward the 22 states that are currently challenging government overreach,” McCrory said in a statement earlier this month.

Staff writer Rick Rothacker contributed.

Mayor Jennifer Roberts said the city "is not prepared" to discuss repealing the ordinance protecting the LGBT community at Monday's city council meeting. The repeal is considered a crucial element of a legislative compromise on the controversial H

VIDEO: North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory spoke to local business people and the media about HB2 and the NCAA and ACC decisions to move the championship games during a luncheon at the Hood Hargett in Charlotte's South Park on Sept. 15, 2016.

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