Politics & Government

With HB2 off the books, will the ACC’s return signal a similar decision by the NCAA?

The Atlantic Coast Conference said Friday it is poised to once again begin holding championship sporting events in North Carolina, but some LGBT advocates are urging the NCAA not to do the same.
The Atlantic Coast Conference said Friday it is poised to once again begin holding championship sporting events in North Carolina, but some LGBT advocates are urging the NCAA not to do the same. (Raleigh) News & Observer staff file photo

A day after the repeal of House Bill 2, the Atlantic Coast Conference said Friday it’s ready to play championship games again in North Carolina.

The announcement came after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed a law that repealed the year-old measure, which limited protections for LGBT individuals. Over the last year, the ACC, NCAA and NBA pulled sports events from the state and businesses canceled expansions to protest the law.

“The ACC Council of Presidents has voted that North Carolina will again be considered for hosting future ACC Championships,” the league said in a statement Friday.

Despite that announcement, though, the fallout from HB2 – and its repeal – remains far from over.

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, announce late Wednesday that legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper have reached a deal to repeal House Bill 2. Neither Moore nor Berger took questions, saying tha

The Human Rights Campaign on Friday accelerated its effort to persuade the NCAA and corporations that the law that repealed HB2 continues to discriminate against the LGBT community. The nation’s largest gay and transgender rights organization called it “simply a new version of HB2 that abandons LGBTQ people.”

The NCAA is expected to decide within days whether to locate dozens of championships in North Carolina through 2022.

On Thursday, a bipartisan majority of lawmakers passed the compromise repeal. Cooper, a vocal critic of HB2, signed the bill hours later. “Today,” he said, “we begin to end discrimination.”

In a statement late Friday, Cooper said it was “encouraging to see the ACC put North Carolina back on its list.” He called this week’s compromise “a first step to repairing our state’s reputation and economy.”

Sources involved in the negotiations said Cooper had been in daily touch with NCAA President Mark Emmert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. They believe they had the leaders’ implicit support in taking the compromise to a vote.

But a Human Rights Campaign spokeswoman said the organization had begun lobbying dozens of corporate allies, telling them the new law is no better than the old. HRC President Chad Griffin called the NCAA Wednesday night to protest the compromise.

“What we want to do is cut through the sales job the governor and the legislature have done on this and explain to companies and to the leagues that the worst harms of HB2 are still law in North Carolina today,” said Olivia Dalton, a senior vice president of the HRC. “In all meaningful ways, this has not changed anything.”

HB2, passed a year ago, overturned a Charlotte ordinance extending non-discrimination protection to the LGBT community and required transgender people in government-run buildings to use the bathroom or locker room of the gender on their birth certificate.

The new law repeals that. It also pre-empts local governments and school boards from enacting their own bathroom policies. And it bars local government from enacting non-discrimination ordinances until Dec. 1, 2020.

Supporters say while the compromise isn’t perfect, LBGT advocates got what they asked for: Repeal of HB2.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP and progressive groups that support LGBT rights have panned the agreement. A New York Times editorial called it “bait-and-switch.” Levi Strauss & Co. had urged N.C. lawmakers to reject “a backroom deal.”

Business leaders helped broker the compromise, and it won support from the Charlotte Chamber and support from Charlotte-based Bank of America. Cooper’s office Friday released statements of support for the compromise from companies including Duke Energy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Tyler 2 Construction, Grubb Properties and others.

In a news conference Thursday night, NCAA President Emmert said the NCAA Board of Governors will decide next week if the state will host more events.

“HB2 is gone and no longer the law of the land,” Emmert told reporters. “We made clear that absent any change in the law we weren’t going back to North Carolina. They’ve changed the law.

“Now the question is … whether or not this new bill has changed the landscape sufficiently that the board’s comfortable in returning to North Carolina. This isn’t about North Carolina not being a hospitable place for events. It is. But can we conduct them in a way that’s consistent with our values?”

John Lassiter, chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, said he hasn’t been involved in talks with sports organizations, but said “early signals are positive.

“This is what folks were looking for, and North Carolina has a long and storied history of both collegiate and professional sports,” he said. “So it’ll be good to get that behind us.”

Staff writer Rick Rothacker contributed.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

North Carolina repealed HB2 in 2017 but left intact some of its provisions. But with Charlotte’s reputation tainted, the city is still paying to market itself to visitors.