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McCrory: NC and NBA had a deal on HB2 that fell through

Gov. Pat McCrory
Gov. Pat McCrory Raleigh

Gov. Pat McCrory says he and North Carolina legislative leaders had a “total verbal agreement” with the NBA about changes the state would make to House Bill 2 – changes that presumably would have kept the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.

In an interview Thursday, McCrory told the Observer the agreement included three main items: reinstating the ability to sue for discrimination in state court, developing a “blue-ribbon task force” to study discrimination in the state, and aligning state and federal nondiscrimination statutory language.

“Those were the three major agreements the NBA and the leadership of the legislature agreed upon,” McCrory said, referring to N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and President Pro Tempore Phil Berger.

A source close to the situation, however, said it would be an overstatement to say there was an actual agreement. The source, who didn’t want to be named to protect business relationships, said the NBA had been discussing two additional pillars of a potential compromise: changing how transgender people can use out-of-state birth certificates, and increasing penalties for crimes committed in bathrooms. All five provisions were included in a draft of the bill that was leaked during the discussions, which McCrory referenced.

The NBA had said it would not be able to keep the 2017 game in Charlotte unless sufficient changes were made to HB2, and those changes were not made. The league followed through last week, announcing that it’s moving the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte. The NBA, however, said the game would be held in Charlotte in 2019 if sufficient changes were made to HB2.

McCrory said the agreement with the NBA was “later sabotaged” by unnamed Republican legislators who he said leaked the agreement out. He also faulted Attorney General Roy Cooper and members of the Human Rights Campaign who he said lobbied Democratic lawmakers for a full repeal instead of changes to the bill.

McCrory’s accusations are “absurd,” said a campaign spokesman for Cooper, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

“Roy Cooper has consistently said that the NBA should stay in North Carolina and that we should repeal this discriminatory law. But Gov. McCrory refused – and now he is pointing fingers instead of taking responsibility for the consequences of his actions,” the spokesman said.

In a June 15 letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, which McCrory’s office provided to the Observer, the governor said the state wanted to be part of “finding solutions that appropriately balance privacy and equality.”

In the letter, McCrory told Silver he supported legislation that would align North Carolina with federal statutory language on “non-discrimination for employment and public accommodations,” reinstate discrimination protections in state court and create a task force to recommend solutions to “best deal with this issue at the state and federal level.” The task force would include members from the business, faith and LGBT communities, he said.

“With these changes, Charlotte and the State of North Carolina will have more non-discrimination protections in place than when the NBA selected Charlotte as the host city for the All-Star Game in 2015,” McCrory said in the letter.

The specific timeline of discussions over HB2 is unclear. But in the final days of the legislative session, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets issued a joint statement saying that they didn’t support proposed revisions to HB2 that were then before the state legislature.

Toward the end of this year’s session, the legislature restored the right to sue for employment discrimination using a state law. But lawmakers left intact provisions that limited non-discrimination rules for LGBT individuals and directed which restroom transgender people can use.

Through the process, McCrory said his conversations with Silver were “very constructive.”

“He was getting a great deal of pressure from the national organization pushing this left-wing agenda, and they were putting pressure on their corporate entities, many of whom had a solid misunderstanding of what our law actually did,” McCrory said.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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