OAKLAND, Calif. — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the North Carolina legislature made sufficient changes to House Bill 2 — the so-called “bathroom bill” passed in March 2016 — that the league will return the All-Star Game to Charlotte in 2019.
“The law was changed,” Silver said Thursday evening at his annual news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals here between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. “Sufficient is a tough. … The answer is yes, I felt that they made incremental progress.
“There is a role the league can play in demonstrating what equality looks like in a community. A new governor came in, certainly he made the request directly to us that if they could make progress with the legislature, would we be willing to bring the game back.”
The NBA announced last month that it would be giving the game back to Charlotte after taking away its right to host this year’s mid-season festivities because of HB2. The law required transgender individuals to use public restrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate.
After Roy Cooper (D) was elected governor last November, the legislature passed a new law, called House Bill 142, earlier this year. It partially repealed HB2, as it prohibits government entities from enacting rules on multiple-occupancy bathrooms, showers and changing rooms unless it is “in accordance with an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.”
But because the law still bans local municipalities from enacting their own non-discrimination ordinances before 2020, it has been labeled as repeal in name only by advocacy groups.
Silver pushed back on that Thursday, saying that some progress is better than none.
“Trying to measure precisely whether it was enough progress, we ultimately felt it was,” Silver said. “I respect those who feel we may have made the wrong decision, but I disagree factually for those who say that the change in the law was not an improvement, or some even said was worse.
“The fact is that under the change in the law in North Carolina, birth certificates were no longer required to use restrooms, and it also permitted us to take our All-Star Game to Charlotte and set a set of rules, a set of principles in which we were going to operate under in that state.”
The commissioner also made clear that he hopes the league’s presence in returning its All-Star Game to North Carolina could lead to further changes in the state by showing a different way of approaching things.
“Again, these are close calls for the league, but I think ultimately it’s that expression that sport imitates life,” Silver said. “I think sometimes life can imitate sport. And I think that we can be in a position where we go in and say, this is what it looks like to operate under a set of egalitarian principles, and this is what it looks like to be non-discriminatory, in this case against the LGBTQ community.
“And my hope is by setting that example, we can unify people and that the state will follow.”