Scott Fowler

NCAA’s message to North Carolina on HB2 ‘repeal’ should be clear, too: Pound sand

If I were the NCAA, I would have four words for North Carolina regarding this HB2 “repeal”:

Not nearly good enough.

It’s obvious that this HB2 repeal or reset or whatever you want to call it – I’d call it the “Oh man, we better look like we’re doing something fast or we’re never going to get re-elected!” – had a strong sense of urgency. The NCAA will soon hand out another string of championship site selections for the years 2018-2022. North Carolina wants to be back in that game.

It’s not clear whether what happened Thursday was sufficient in the eyes of the NCAA for North Carolina to be included in the selection process again, but it shouldn’t be. Why include N.C. when its state lawmakers are still being exclusionary themselves in the way they treat a significant part of our population? The NCAA should tell North Carolina lawmakers to go pound sand.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said Thursday that he would like to announce something early next week as to whether North Carolina will still be sitting these championships out after there is a lot of “debate and discussion” among the NCAA’s board of governors. Emmert said he “technically” believed this was a repeal of HB2 – although he stayed well clear from offering his own opinion on it – and said that now things will move quickly one way or the other.

“Everybody loves being in North Carolina for our games,” Emmert said. “It’s a state, obviously, that in many ways is synonymous with college sports. They are great hosts. Nobody made the decision to leave North Carolina casually. It was a very, very difficult decision for the board to make. And I’m sure the next decision will be very difficult as well.”

I can’t see how the NCAA will do anything but tell North Carolina lawmakers that Thursday’s shot just rimmed out. No, worse than that. This compromise that pleases hardly anyone is an airball, and should be labeled as such by a passionate crowd that just saw a terrible misfire in a packed arena.

While state legislators and Gov. Roy Cooper are hailing this as a last-minute collaborative victory, it looks to me a lot more like smearing lipstick on a pig. It does not fulfill Cooper’s promises to the LGBT community. It does not allow local governments to pass anti-discrimination ordinances until at least December 2020, and that was one of HB2’s most basic and controversial sticking points. The new bill leaves all gay people vulnerable to unequal treatment until past the next presidential election.

Emmert used a large part of a previously scheduled news conference in Arizona Thursday to answer questions about the HB2 repeal. Said Emmert: “HB2 is gone and no longer the law of the land. 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 is comfortable in returning to North Carolina.”

Emmert said he had not lobbied anyone on either side of HB2 – “that’s not our business to do that,” Emmert said – but added that he had talked frequently to Gov. Roy Cooper and numerous lawmakers over the past few days.

So, there has been a lot of talk, and now it’s time for some NCAA action.

I am not sure what happened Thursday will convince the NCAA to ultimately decide to put some of its championships back into our state.

But it shouldn’t.