Updates at 7:11 p.m. with Associated Press version:
CLEMSON, S.C. — The Atlantic Coast Conference has followed the NCAA's lead and is removing its athletics championships scheduled for neutral sites in North Carolina because of a state law limiting protections for LGBT people.
The ACC Council of Presidents voted today to relocate the league's championships until North Carolina repeals the law. The decision includes 10 neutral-site championships in 2016-17, which means relocating the ACC football title game that was scheduled to be played in Charlotte in December and the women's basketball tournament in March at the Greensboro Coliseum.
No announcement was made on where the championship events will be held.
"The decision to move the neutral site championships out of North Carolina while HB 2 remains the law was not an easy one," said Clemson President James P. Clements, chairman of the league's council. "But it is consistent with the shared values of inclusion and non-discrimination at all our institutions."
ACC commissioner John Swofford led his conference to do the right thing.
On Monday, the NCAA said it was relocating seven of its championships scheduled to be played in the state, including the men's basketball first- and second-round matchups scheduled for next March in Greensboro, North Carolina.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford said after the NCAA's decision that his league would review its next steps.
The law requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide antidiscrimination protections. HB 2 was signed into law this year by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who has defended it as a commonsense safety and security measure.
McCrory said in a statement that the legal system will ultimately decide the issue, adding that "I strongly encourage all public and private institutions to both respect and allow our nation's judicial system to proceed without economic threats or political retaliation" toward states. His statement largely mirrored the one he issued Tuesday in the aftermath of the NCAA's decision.
Greensboro's Paris Kea, who played basketball at Page High School, wanted to play in an ACC women's tournament in the Greensboro Coliseum. That won't happen during the 2016-17 season.
Clements said the leaders had an open, honest dialogue that took in all sides of the issue.
"There are a lot of parts to the discussion, how the community is affected," the Clemson president said. "I'm really happy with how everybody came together."
Swofford said the presidents' choice was made on principle.
"I think it was the right decision. A difficult one in ways, but an easy one in ways considering the principles involved," he said. "That's where our president's laid their bed so to speak, and I think we landed in the right place."
Swofford said identifying replacement venues is in the early stages, but hopes to get locations lined up as quickly as possible.
Finding a football stadium as ACC-friendly as Charlotte might be difficult. The championship game's been played at Bank of America Stadium for the past six seasons with an average attendance of 69,641. In the previous two seasons (2008-09) the game was held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida and averaged 49,412 spectators.
"We'll do what we need to do," Swofford said. "It's a challenge, our next challenge."
Football is not the only sport affected. The ACC planned to hold 14 of its 21 championship events in North Carolina this academic year, with the majority of those at neutral, off-campus, sites, and the others either on the campuses or the home venues of Wake Forest (field hockey), Duke (fencing), North Carolina (softball) and N.C. State (wrestling, cross country).
Reaction to the ACC's decision to move championships that had been scheduled for neutral sit…
The ACC decision came the same day the NCAA reopened the bidding process for those championships it pulled from the state. The NCAA said bids for those events are due Sept. 27 and hopes to decide the new sites by Oct. 7.
Swofford said the ACC would consider the issue again in the spring if nothing changed in North Carolina's law. Such prohibitions can last for quite some time: The NCAA's ban on South Carolina hosting neutral-site championships for flying the Confederate flag on Statehouse grounds lasted from 2001 until it came down last summer.
This action by the ACC is the latest in a steady stream of public and business backlash against the law.
The NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game to New Orleans instead of hosting it in Charlotte as originally scheduled because of the law. Duke's men's basketball schedule had to be reconfigured when Albany backed out due to that state's travel ban, and the Vermont women's basketball team has canceled a December trip to play North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Entertainers such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Ringo Starr have canceled plans to play in North Carolina. And PayPal reversed plans to open a 400-employee operation center in Charlotte.
The ACC and NCAA decisions have been a blow to North Carolina's tourism and business communities, which rely on servicing fans attending major sporting events.
Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said the recent announcements by the NCAA and ACC were "unprecedented and historically bad" for the state's sports event industry.
It was "probably the worst ever in terms of lost business and damage to our brand," he said.
The ACC followed the NCAA’s lead on Wednesday afternoon, announcing that all scheduled neutral-site championships will be moved from North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year.
“The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount,” Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “Today’s decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships.”
The decision came after two days of meetings in Clemson, S.C., with the presidents of the ACC’s member institutions. The conference released the following statement on the decision:
“The ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination. Every one of our 15 universities is strongly committed to these values and therefore, we will continue to host ACC Championships at campus sites, We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year. All locations will be announced in the future from the conference office.”
In all, North Carolina will lose 10 ACC championship events, including December’s football championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Others include women’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s golf, men’s golf and baseball.