Adam Silver: ‘Calendar not our friend’ in deciding fate of NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, left, and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, right, pose for a photo during a news conference to announce Charlotte as the site of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in June of 2015.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver, left, and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, right, pose for a photo during a news conference to announce Charlotte as the site of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in June of 2015. AP

The NBA has yet to decide whether to move the 2017 All-Star Weekend out of Charlotte, despite concerns about the North Carolina law known as House Bill 2.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said as much during his annual news conference at the conclusion of an owners meeting Tuesday in Las Vegas.

“We’re not prepared to make a decision today,” Silver said. “But we recognize the calendar is not our friend. February is quickly approaching, especially in terms of big events like the All-Star games if we’re going to make alternative plans.”

The game is scheduled for Feb. 17 at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena. Silver said the situation was discussed at length with the league’s owners but that no vote was taken. The decision, he said, would be the responsibility of the league office, but he said he wanted to know where the owners stood.

“It seems that we have a unique situation in North Carolina. We awarded the game to Charlotte when the law was not in place,” Silver said. “Though these laws have all been short-handed as ‘bathroom bills,’ there are unique aspects” to HB2.

As originally passed into law, HB2 barred North Carolinians from bringing some anti-discriminatory lawsuits to state courts.

“We have made it very consistent we consider this law in conflict with our core values in this league,” Silver said. “Given the amount of discussion, how hardened the views are, is this where we should be in 2017?”

Silver indicated that while he’s still working to avoid moving the event, time and options are running short. The N.C. General Assembly adjourned recently after its short session.

“It’s a process. We were waiting for the legislative session (to play out), and we were frankly hoping they’d make some steps in changing the legislation,” Silver said. “And frankly I was disappointed they didn’t. We’re being extremely cautious and judicious in making this decision.”

The NBA has expressed concern with HB2 since it was signed into law by N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory in March. The NBA and some other major corporations view the law as discriminating against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Silver and other officials from the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets worked behind the scenes the past few months to lobby for major changes in the law, which requires people in public schools and government facilities to use restrooms that conform to the gender on their birth certificates. This law was in reaction to a Charlotte ordinance that would allow transgender individuals to choose a restroom based on their current gender identity.

Silver said throughout the process that HB2 runs counter to the NBA’s long-standing values of inclusion.

Silver said last month that the league would need to make a definitive decision on where the 2017 event would be held by the end of the summer.

Most recently, several major corporations, including Google, Reddit and PayPal, reportedly sent the NBA a letter urging Silver to move the All-Star Weekend out of Charlotte.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of that letter, quoting it as saying, “If the NBA holds events in North Carolina while HB2 remains law, players, employees and fans will be at risk of discrimination – and that’s wrong.”

Having the All-Star Game in Charlotte could have an economic impact of up to $100 million, the city’s tourism arm has said. Next year will be the first time Charlotte has hosted the game since 1991, and it’s expected to draw more visitors than any event since the Democratic National Convention.

Earlier this month, the General Assembly approved limited changes to HB2, including restoring individuals’ ability to sue for workplace discrimination in state court. Previously under HB2, those lawsuits had to be filed in federal courts, where proceedings can be drawn out. Last week, the Department of Justice asked a federal judge to suspend the law, pending the outcome of a trial.

Silver has said multiple times since HB2 passed that the league opposes the law, and that it could affect the site of the 2017 All-Star Game.

In June, Silver said the league was coordinating with local business leaders who were working “behind the scenes” to craft a compromise on the bill with state legislators and Charlotte’s City Council. He said there was “absolutely strong interest” in working something out.

Multiple sources said the league would have to make a decision in the next few weeks on whether to move the All-Star Weekend to give the new host city minimal preparation time. Silver acknowledged during his news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals that the NBA had begun investigating alternative cities should the league move the event.

In relocating the various All-Star Weekend events, the league would have to reserve a large block of high-end hotel rooms on relatively short notice and secure arena and convention facilities. In addition to the All-Star Game, the weekend includes competitive events on Friday and Saturday night and a fan festival, typically held in a host city’s convention center.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver on next steps regarding the All-Star Game and North Carolina's House Bill 2.

Correspondent Justin Emerson contributed from Las Vegas.

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

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