Before NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s news conference Thursday night, I was convinced the 2017 All-Star Game was good as gone from Charlotte.
Now I’m not so sure.
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Silver expressed a surprising sense of optimism that there is still a compromise to be made between the North Carolina legislature and Charlotte City Council over House Bill 2. Those two sides have been at an impasse over LGBT rights, and I didn’t see that getting resolved in time for the league to avoid moving All-Star Weekend, which was awarded to Charlotte roughly a year ago.
Silver was in North Carolina three weeks ago, looking to coax along any momentum toward a compromise. Here’s what he said about that trip:
“I spoke to a lot of business leaders in Charlotte who are working behind the scenes to craft some sort of compromise with governmental leaders, both in the city and the state. I think both sides of the issue realize, no matter how heartfelt their views are, that the current state-of-being is causing enormous economic damage to the state.”
No doubt. The All-Star Weekend could pump up to $100 million into Charlotte’s economy. Almost all the tickets to the All-Star Game go to the league’s out-of-town guests and sponsors, so hotels and restaurants are packed with visitors.
The only event bigger in recent memory for Charlotte was the Democratic National Convention.
There are two things I can say with confidence about Silver’s position on All-Star Weekend:
He absolutely wants to avoid moving the event if possible. But he absolutely will move it if nothing changes regarding HB2.
While Silver didn’t place a specific deadline on a decision, he acknowledged this must be resolved by sometime this summer to give whichever city serves as host some time to prepare.
I’ve heard people describe this as the NBA strong-arming the state of North Carolina. I don’t see it that way. This is the league saying its most prominent corporate event shouldn’t take place somewhere that doesn’t share the league’s values. Moving All-Star Weekend wouldn’t be an “in-your-face.” Rather, it would be an “agree-to-disagree.”
Silver has dealt with this situation for months, but he was more revealing publicly Thursday than previously. Specifically, he differentiated between the aspects of HB2 regarding restroom use and the rest of the law.
“The bathroom issue has become a little bit of a distraction,” Silver said of the conflict over whether transgender people should be allowed to use public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. “From the very beginning, that was not the core issue (in the NBA’s concerns). It was protection for the LGBT community in terms of economic rights, personal rights.”
Silver said if those rights issues can be addressed to ensure “basic protections,” then “we absolutely will see you in Charlotte next February.”
Is that doable? Probably, but time is running out. I made some calls Friday and was told plenty is still going on to try to work this out. There is dialogue that could lead to a solution.
The All-Star Game issue is about a whole lot of money that will go away in a relatively short time. That outcome would be a true shame for everyone in this state.