The 2017 NBA All-Star Game is 10 months, but Charles Barkley is urging the NBA to pull the league’s glittering weekend out of Charlotte after North Carolina passed a law that bars the extension of civil rights protections to gay and transgender people.
“As a black person, I’m against any form of discrimination, against whites, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, however you want to phrase it,” Barkley said in a CNN interview. “It’s my job, with the position of power that I’m in and being able to be on television, I’m supposed to stand up for the people who can’t stand up for themselves. So I think the NBA should move the All-Star Game from Charlotte.”
For all the cutting up he does on a TV set, Barkley can be deadly serious when it comes to social and cultural issues. A year ago, he urged the NCAA to move the Final Four out of Indianapolis when a similar law was passed by the Indiana legislature.
“Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me,” Barkley said. “As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.”
The NBA hinted that moving the 2017 game was on the table last week.
“The NBA is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all who attend our games and events,” the league said in a statement. “We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect, and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.”
One organization, though, is sticking with its plans. The NFL will not move next month’s owners’ meetings out of the state.
“We embrace diversity and inclusiveness in all of our policies,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN.com. “The Panthers have made clear their position of non-discrimination and respect for all their fans. The city of Charlotte also has made clear its position.
“The meeting will take place in the city of Charlotte.”
One of the topics on the table at that meeting will be the awarding of Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020 and last month it issued a stern warning that Atlanta’s hopes of landing the game would be harmed by a “religious freedom” law in the state. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the bill last week.
In 1990, it moved a Super Bowl out of Arizona when that state failed to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a holiday.
More recently, a 2014 Religious Freedom Restoration Act reached the desk of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and the NFL was prepared to move Super Bowl XLIX, saying in a statement: “Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard. We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.”
Brewer vetoed the bill and the Super Bowl went on as planned.