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Letter to NCAA: No championships to cities with anti-LGBTQ laws

LGBTQ groups urge NCAA to stand in support of equal rights in the face of intimidation by North Carolina lawmakers

2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game featuring the University of North Carolina vs. Villanova – Photo: James W. Neal, via Wikimedia.

A coalition of LGBTQ-supportive organizations is calling on the NCAA to reaffirm its commitment to equality when selecting venues for upcoming championship events.

The letter, sent to NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA’s Board of Governors, attempts to remind the organization not to back down from its decision to take local and state laws regarding LGBTQ rights into consideration when awarding sporting championships to potential host cities, even as North Carolina lawmakers threaten retaliation against the college sports association.

Last September, the NCAA decided to relocate all 2016-2017 championship sporting events from North Carolina in response to the state’s HB 2 law. HB 2 restricts which public restrooms and other facilities transgender people can access, and rescinds all local nondiscrimination ordinances that extend protections in employment, housing and public accommodations to LGBTQ people. But now North Carolina lawmakers are floating a bill that would investigate the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference for allegedly violating their tax-exempt status by “engaging in political or lobbying activities.”

Aware that the NCAA is under increased political and social pressure due to the contentious nature of debates over LGBTQ rights, more than 80 organizations have signed onto the letter urging the NCAA to stick to its principles by refusing to award championships to cities with laws hostile to the LGBTQ community when considering bids for sporting events through 2022. Last month, the North Carolina Sports Association warned that the NCAA would likely reject all of the state’s bids for championship events if lawmakers refused to repeal HB 2 in full.

“The NCAA has already demonstrated its commitment to ensuring safe and inclusive events,” the letter says. “In response to state legislatures passing laws targeting LGBTQ people, the NCAA required that bidders seeking to host tournaments or events demonstrate how they will ensure the safety of all participants and spectators, and protect them from discrimination.

“Based on the new guidelines, the NCAA relocated events scheduled to be held in North Carolina due to the state’s discriminatory HB2 law. We commend these previous actions. With the next round of site selections underway, we urge the NCAA to reaffirm these previous commitments to nondiscrimination and inclusion by avoiding venues that are inherently unwelcoming and unsafe for LGBTQ people.”

Signatories to the letter, which was circulated by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Athlete Ally, included the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Black Justice Council, Campus Pride, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAD, GLAAD, Equality Federation, GLSEN, and PFLAG.

The LGBTQ advocates also urge the NCAA to avoid awarding championship events to venues that meet one of four criteria: 1) cites or states with laws that sanction discrimination against LGBTQ people in goods, services or public accommodations; 2) cities or states with laws preventing transgender people from using restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity; 3) schools that request Title IX exemptions to discriminate against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; and 4) states that preempt of override local nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

“With anti-LGBTQ bills advancing in dozens of states across this country, athletes, fans and workers must know that the NCAA will continue to have their backs and avoid locations where the safety and wellbeing of any person is put at risk,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

“The NCAA has committed to ensuring that their championship events are safe, healthy and free from discrimination, and we are calling on its governing board to affirm that commitment in the current site selection process,” Hudson Taylor, the executive director of Athlete Ally, said in a statement. “Our letter outlines principles that can and should be adopted to guarantee that LGBTQ players, coaches and fans are protected and respected wherever NCAA events are held.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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