The NCAA announced Tuesday that the organization is awarding the state of North Carolina the chance to host at least 26 college sporting championships over the next five years.
The collegiate association had earlier said that states and cities with anti-LGBTQ legislation would not be allowed to host championship games.
The NCAA’s turnaround follows North Carolina’s passage of a bill that purports to “repeal” its controversial HB 2 law while keeping in place most of HB 2’s anti-LGBTQ provisions.
Under the “repeal” bill, municipalities are prohibited from passing any laws regulating access to public restrooms or changing facilities. They are also prohibited from passing any laws that regulate employment or access to public accommodations (not including restrooms) until Dec. 1, 2020.
LGBTQ advocates have condemned the NCAA’s actions, saying the organization is condoning discrimination even as it insists it is concerned about players’ and fans’ safety.
“North Carolina’s new law does nothing to guarantee that LGBT people will be protected from discrimination,” James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’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.”
Last week, the ACLU delivered more than 77,000 petition signatures to the NCAA urging the college sporting association to keep events out of North Carolina. Earlier this month, the ACLU filed public records requests with North Carolina cities and universities seeking documentation demonstrating how they would guarantee protections for LGBTQ people if they were selected as a host for NCAA events.
So far, none of the cities or universities have responded to the ACLU’s inquiry.
The Human Rights Campaign has also submitted FOIA requests to North Carolina public universities that were bidding on NCAA events, particularly any materials relating to their nondiscrimination policies.
The NCAA had previously requested that cities and universities seeking to host championship events provide evidence that they would be able to ensure protections for LGBTQ athletes and fans.
“The NCAA has fallen hook, line, and sinker’ for this ‘bait and switch’ shame ‘deal’ doubling down on discrimination,” JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president for policy and political affairs, said in a statement. “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,” Winterhof added. “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.”
North Carolina is slated to host the first and second rounds of Division I Men’s Basketball at PNC Arena in Raleigh in March 2021, and the Division I Women’s Basketball Regional at Greensboro Coliseum in March and April 2019.
The state will play host to the Division I Men’s Soccer College Cup in 2019 and 2021, and Division I Women’s College Cup in 2018 and 2020, at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
The Tar Heel State will also host all of the Division II Men’s Baseball Championships from 2019-2022, held at USA Baseball National Training Center, in Cary, N.C., and the Division III Men’s Soccer Championships during those same years, held at UNCG Stadium in Greensboro.
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