Opponents of House Bill 2 protest in front of Governor's Mansion
North Carolina’s adoption of a law limiting LGBT protections has some wondering whether the NBA, known for its advocacy of civil rights, will opt out of having its All-Star Game in Charlotte next year.
Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, who grew up in Charlotte, even said Friday during practice he hopes the city will find a way to still host.
Speaking to reporters at the Warriors’ shootaround Friday, Curry said the game would be “huge for the city ... just to show what Charlotte’s all about,” the San Jose Mercury News reported. “Hopefully they can figure it out and keep it there.”
The NBA, set to host its 2017 All-Star Game at Time Warner Cable Arena, said Thursday of the new N.C. measure that it’s “deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect.” The league said it doesn’t yet know what impact the law will have on its “ability to successfully host” the event.
This isn’t the first time the NBA has criticized what it sees as actions it sees as antithetical to the cause of racial or LGBT equality, notes Chicago sports business consultant Marc Ganis. Take former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, for example. The league forced him to sell after his racist comments about former L.A. Lakers standout Magic Johnson.
“Though it is difficult to move an NBA All-Star game, it’s something I could see them doing,” Ganis told the Observer.
The Charlotte Hornets said Friday the team opposes discrimination in any form, and will work “to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome while at work or attending NBA games and events at Time Warner Cable Arena.”
The N.C. legislation signed Wednesday by Gov. Pat McCrory was a response to a provision in Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance that would allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender with which they identify.
Sending a message that is at odds with widely accepted values of equality is “probably not good for the state,” said John Sweeney, a sports communications professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“A lot of our social issues have played out on the public stage of sports ... because athletics are a place where the chairman and lowest level employee can both relate, the rural and the urban both relate,” Sweeney said.
Charlotte was awarded the NBA All-Star game last June, and the game will mark its first time hosting in 26 years. The city agreed in 2014 to pay $27.5 million toward improvements to the Time Warner Cable Arena. And while the NBA saw those improvements as key to any All-Star bid, they weren’t directly tied to the game.
The Hornets recently secured funding from 15 sponsors for the game, which is scheduled for Feb. 17. The NBA All-Star weekend is estimated to have an approximately $100 million local economic impact.
Since the new N.C. bill’s passage, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority said it has received “several concerns” from customers and visitors, including people associated with the All-Star game. The city expects the game to draw more visitors than any event since the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
“We encourage our state and local leaders to move swiftly to find a resolution that makes our customers and visitors feel welcome,” said Laura White, CRVA spokeswoman. Staff Writer Rick Bonnell contributed.