The NCAA announced Tuesday that it will once again hold championship events in North Carolina after moving them out of the state this academic year because of a bathroom law that widely was regarded as discriminatory. The law, called House Bill 2, recently was repealed and replaced by the state legislature after the NCAA threatened to withhold its spotlight events from the state through 2022.
From 2018 to 2022, the NCAA will hold 23 championship events in North Carolina across its three divisions, including 10 in Division I:
— Men’s basketball: 2020 first and second rounds, Greensboro; 2021 first and second rounds, Raleigh.
— Women’s basketball: 2019 regional, Greensboro.
— Men’s soccer: 2019 and 2021 College Cup, Cary.
— Women’s soccer: 2018 and 2020 College Cup, Cary.
— Field hockey: 2019 championship, Winston-Salem.
— Women’s golf: 2020 regional, Raleigh.
— Women’s swimming and diving: 2021 championships, Greensboro.
The original law mandated that transgender people use the bathroom corresponding with their birth gender in state-run facilities and banned North Carolina municipalities from enacting anti-discrimination policies. In response, the NCAA moved seven championship events out of the state this academic year and the NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.
According to an Associated Press estimate, North Carolina stood to lose $3.76 billion in business revenue had the original bill remained intact.
The new law, called House Bill 142, partially repealed House Bill 2 by forbidding government entities from enacting rules on multiple-occupancy bathrooms, showers and changing rooms unless it is “in accordance with an act of the General Assembly.” However, it still bans local municipalities from enacting their own nondiscrimination ordinances before 2020.
The NCAA Board of Governors initially seemed wary of the new law after it was enacted, though it allowed North Carolina to be considered for future championship events:
While the new law meets the minimal NCAA requirements, the board remains concerned that some may perceive North Carolina’s moratorium against affording opportunities for communities to extend basic civil rights as a signal that discriminatory behavior is permitted and acceptable, which is inconsistent with the NCAA Bylaws.
However, we recognize the quality championships hosted by the people of North Carolina in years before HB2. And this new law restores the state to that legal landscape: a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships. …
In the end, a majority on the NCAA Board of Governors reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina by our committees that are presently meeting. The NCAA championships previously awarded to North Carolina for 2017-18 will remain in the state. The board, however, directs that any site awarded a championship event in North Carolina or elsewhere be required to submit additional documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.
The ACC, which is headquartered in North Carolina, also said it would reconsider its ban on championship events in the state after the partial repeal. The conference moved 10 events away from the state this academic year.
“The recently passed legislation allows the opportunity to reopen the discussion with the ACC Council of Presidents regarding neutral site conference championships being held in the state of North Carolina,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “This discussion will take place in the near future, and following any decisions by the ACC Council of Presidents, announcements will be forthcoming.”
A number of advocacy groups have condemned the revised law, saying it is a repeal in name only. On Tuesday, those groups slammed the NCAA for returning to the state.
“North Carolina’s new law does nothing to guarantee that LGBT people will be protected from discrimination” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement. “When the NCAA originally withdrew events from North Carolina, they did so because they claimed to care about ‘fairness and inclusion’ for college athletes and fans. It’s a shame to see that those concerns have already fallen by the wayside.”
Said JoDee Winterhof, the Human Rights Campaign’s senior vice president for policy and political affairs: “The NCAA has fallen ‘hook, line and sinker’ for this ‘bait and switch’ sham ‘deal’ doubling down on discrimination. Even worse, the NCAA has inexcusably gone back on its promise to ensure all championship games are held in locations that are safe, respectful, and free of discrimination. By rewarding North Carolina with championship games, the NCAA has undermined its credibility and is sending a dangerous message to lawmakers across the country who are targeting LGBTQ people with discriminatory state legislation. In addition to protecting the broader LGBTQ community, the NCAA needs to clearly state how they will be protecting their student athletes, personnel and fans.”