Less than 12 hours after UNC won the men’s basketball national title, the state learned it is being considered once again to host NCAA championship games – despite some lingering concerns.
The NCAA said Tuesday morning that its Board of Governors voted “reluctantly” to consider championship bids in North Carolina. The announcement comes days after the repeal of House Bill 2, the controversial bill that prompted the NCAA to pull its games for the 2016 season from the state.
The deal, however, has faced continued criticism because it prevents cities and counties from adding anti-discrimination ordinances until December 2020.
The NCAA is currently making championship site selections for 2018-2022. Charlotte is bidding to host men’s basketball tournament games at the Spectrum Center for three years – 2020-2022.
“We are actively determining site selections, and this new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment,” the NCAA said in a statement Tuesday morning.
The NCAA plans to announce sites on April 18.
In its statement, the NCAA also said that championships already awarded for the 2017-2018 season will remain in the state. That means Charlotte will host the first and second rounds of the men’s basketball tournament at the Spectrum Center March 16-18, 2018.
Additionally, the NCAA said any site awarded a championship event in North Carolina or elsewhere will be required to submit “additional documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.”
Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law a compromise bill last week that repeals HB2. The deal followed a deadline reportedly set by the NCAA for state lawmakers to change HB2 or be excluded from consideration for hosting postseason games through 2022. The controversial year-old law had disallowed local anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, and required people in government facilities to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
The NCAA said that while HB142 is “far from perfect,” the measure “restores the state to that legal landscape: a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.”
Last week, the Atlantic Coast Conference also said it will again consider hosting its championship events in North Carolina following the HB2 deal. Among other games, the ACC had pulled its title football game, one of Charlotte’s biggest annual events, from North Carolina over HB2.
Both the ACC and NCAA pulled their championship games out of North Carolina in September, about two months after the NBA decided to relocate its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte. The NBA has said it would host the game in Charlotte in 2019 if sufficient changes are made to HB2, which the league has described as discriminatory.
It’s unclear whether the repeal compromise goes far enough to meet the NBA’s criteria to return the All-Star Game to North Carolina. Sources say the league’s board will meet meet Thursday to discuss the HB2 replacement.
Last week’s repeal compromise angered groups on both sides of the HB2 debate.
Civil rights activists like the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights advocacy group, say the new measure fails to protect members of the LGBT community, and conservative groups like the NC Values Coalition say HB2 was necessary to ensure restroom privacy.
“The NCAA’s decision to backtrack on their vow to protect LGBTQ players, employees and fans is deeply disappointing and puts people at risk,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “After drawing a line in the sand and calling for repeal of HB2, the NCAA simply let North Carolina lawmakers off the hook.”
In a news conference Tuesday, Cooper urged the NCAA and advocacy groups to see the HB2 repeal deal as an ongoing work in progress.
“While more work remains to be done, it’s good news that the NCAA will be returning to North Carolina. We will continue our work with them to fight for statewide anti-discrimination protections for LGBT North Carolinians,” Cooper said in a statement.
The Family Research Council said it was never the role of a sports organization to pressure lawmakers about policy.
“It’s now clear that there is no way for the NCAA to placate the far left which will accept nothing less than the total surrender of those opposed to its agenda of opening every shower, locker room and bathroom to both men and women,” the council said in a statement.
The (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.