The 2017 NBA All-Star Game was given to the city of Charlotte in North Carolina, the home of the Charlotte Hornets franchise, on 22 June 2015. Just over a year later, in a statement made on Thursday, the NBA decided to move the game and all the events that go with it, with New Orleans currently (at the time of writing) the favorite to host the festivities.
The league added that it hoped to return to Charlotte in 2019, thereby merely rescheduling the game rather than actually moving it.
The reason for the move was North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2. The NBA statement read:
While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.
North Carolina’s governor Pat McCrory said that “American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”
The law that has prompted this decision goes by the cumbersome title of “An Act to Provide for Single-sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations. The bill, in full, can be read here.
North Carolina’s state legislature convened on 23 March, a special session, in order to pass the law. It was passed and signed that same night by Governor McCrory. A month previously, the city of Charlotte had passed an ordinance, with a 7-4 majority on the city council, that prevented businesses from discriminating against LGBT customers. The most controversial part of the bill allowed transgender people to use the public restroom appropriate to the gender which they identified with. North Carolina state law does not permit pre-operative transgender people to use bathrooms in this manner and HB2 established that individual cities cannot establish a different standard.
Let’s be quite frank about this: the NBA has not taken the All Star Game from Charlotte because it objects to the law; it has done so because it knows that it is not good business to be seen to even associate with the North Carolinian law. In doing so, however, they follow several other businesses who have decided to shun the state. Paypal reneged on their deal to expand into Charlotte, a move that would have created over 400 jobs. Deutsche Bank will no longer expand their Cary, NC offices, at the cost of 250 jobs. Concerts and shows by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Nick Jonas, Maroon 5 and Cirque du Soleil have all been cancelled. Duke and the US men’s national team coach Mike Krzyzewski called the law ’embarrassing’.
Six states have issued a ban on employees making non-essential travel to North Carolina.The British Foreign Office has issued a travel advisory to their LGBT employees warning them about travel to North Carolina and Mississippi.
It is estimated that HB2 has, to date, lost North Carolina some $40m of revenue and up to $80m in investments and visitor spending.
The NBA follows the NFL in attempting to force the hand of states who create what is perceived to be oppressive legislation. In 2014, the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act permitted companies to discriminate in terms of the people they did business with. The problem was that they were due to host the Superbowl and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell happens to have a sibling who is gay. Earlier this year, a similar bill was passed in Georgia, another state with an NFL team and aspirations of hosting a Superbowl – the 2014 event was estimated to have benefited Phoenix to the tune of $720m. In both cases, the Governor of the state (both Republicans, much like McCrory), vetoed the bills in question.
Now that the NBA has acted, the question of whether or not the NC legislature will act remains. Does the NBA, whose most famous son just happens to be a North Carolina resident, UNC alum and the owner of the Hornets franchise, have the same political power as the NFL?
For the most part, players have stated their support for the NBA’s decision, though reigning MVP Steph Curry did make some pointedly vague comments about the bill when asked a few months ago, stating that “While I don’t know enough about the North Carolina law to comment more fully, no one should be discriminated against”. Whether he meant the LGBT community or those seeking legislative means of opposing them was unclear.
The US Department of Justice is in the process of suing Governor McCrory, arguing that the bill violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Act.
NC State Senator Jeff Jackson took to twitter and the “Crying Jordan” meme generator to give us his take on the announcement: