Following the in-name-only repeal of its controversial HB 2 law, North Carolina will host to the 2019 NBA All-Star Game.
The weekend’s festivities will be played at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, the home arena of the Charlotte Hornets, from Feb. 15-17, 2019.
The NBA’s decision to award the Tar Heel State comes after a decision made earlier this year to move the 2017 All-Star Game to New Orleans because of the HB 2 law, which explicitly barred transgender people from using multi-user restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identity. The bill also overturned existing nondiscrimination ordinances that included protections for LGBTQ residents, and banned other localities from adopting similar ordinances.
In an attempt to lure back sporting events and businesses that had boycotted the state, lawmakers passed HB 142, a so-called “repeal” of the HB 2 law. But that law keeps in place the same bathroom restrictions on transgender people, and prevents localities from adopting LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policies until Dec. 1, 2020 — well after the NBA All-Star Game.
“North Carolina’s discriminatory law prohibits the city of Charlotte from implementing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents and visitors attending the All-Star Game. Nothing has changed that fact,” JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “It’s critically important that people understand the gravity of this situation, which has had the effect of extending discrimination and endangering LGBTQ people across the state of North Carolina.”
“While we understand the concerns of those who say the repeal of HB 2 did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Additionally, it allows us to work with the leadership of the Hornets organization to apply a set of equality principles to ensure that every All-Star event will proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies. All venues, hotels and businesses we work with during All-Star will adhere to these policies as well.
“Sports have a long history of helping to change attitudes around important social issues,” Silver continued. “We believe holding our All-Star activities in Charlotte will be a powerful way for the NBA to continue this tradition.”
Given the current political situation in North Carolina, and the restrictions placed on cities like Charlotte until Dec. 1, 2020, the only way that such protections could be implemented would come at the behest of the NBA, in the form of contracts or deals with hotels, restaurants, and other public accommodations ensuring that they will not discriminate against LGBTQ people. Otherwise, it is unlikely that the Republican-led legislature will pass any inclusive policies.
Matt Hirschy, the interim executive director of Equality NC, said he wanted to see the NBA propose “concrete guidelines and policies” that would live up to its promises that all players and fans will be protected from discrimination.
“As we move forward with the NBA All-Star Game returning to Charlotte, LGBTQ people must be invited to the discussions between the NBA, the city of Charlotte and NCGA leadership to provide input and feedback on how to best protect LGBTQ people,” Hirschy said.