GREENSBORO — We hoped it wouldn’t get this far. We hoped cooler heads would prevail as the two sides rolled toward the cliff.
But now it’s happened. We’ve lost the NCAA basketball tournament for March. We’ve lost the NCAA soccer tournaments for December.
Thanks, Governor Pat.
In a shocking announcement this evening, the NCAA announced it was pulling all postseason events from the state of North Carolina for 2016-17 in response to the state’s refusal to reconsider the controversial House Bill 2 law that discriminates against the LGBT community and limits civil rights protections.
That includes the first and second rounds of the 2017 NCAA men’s basketball tournament scheduled for the Greensboro Coliseum on March 17 and 19.
The decision comes after the NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte in July.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said the decision came down to respect and fairness.
“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships,” Emmert said in a statement. “We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans and everyone taking part in our championships.”
This is an embarrassment to North Carolina. Aside from it being a logistical and economic problem for cities such as Greensboro and Cary, which will lose four events scheduled for the upcoming year, this is a slap in the face of a state that has a long tradition of hosting NCAA postseason events.
In 2013, when the last bids were awarded, North Carolina landed 29 postseason events. Only Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas were awarded more.
And what’s worse, bids for the next four years have already been submitted. Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh and several other cities are awaiting word on future championships. An announcement had been expected in December but will be delayed until 2017.
“To lose that event from the Coliseum ... it certainly hurts us financially," Greensboro mayor Nancy Vaughan said. "But it also hurts our reputation as far as Tournament Town goes."
The NCAA hasn’t said where it plans to move the events. Much of the work has already been done on events coming up as early as December, and everything from sales and marketing to logistical planning will be scrapped in North Carolina and “awarded” to some other state.
That’s where this decision becomes a bit complicated. There isn’t a state in the union that doesn’t have issues. There are no glass houses anymore. The NCAA has made statements like this before, particularly in South Carolina over the confederate flag. But the governing body of college athletics is in new territory here.
John Swofford, the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, said in July that the NCAA was going into uncharted waters because several other states had similar laws, some of them awaiting court decisions.
“That can be somewhat of a slippery slope for an organization that jumps into that,” he said, suggesting many cities across the nation were bidding for NCAA postseason events, some of which had similar laws as North Carolina’s HB 2.
It’s been six months since Gov. Pat McCrory, a Jamestown native, signed a bill into law requiring individuals to use bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificate in all government buildings, schools and universities. The law also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide antidiscrimination protections.
The bill was a hasty response to a Charlotte City Council ordinance over the treatment of gay, lesbian and transgender business customers.
A federal court blocked the state from enforcing the law on state campuses.
This has been a staring match from the beginning between the NCAA and McCrory. And the move, coming in an election year only a couple months from Election Day, will surely be seen as some sort of power move by the NCAA. But it’s also an indication of how tone-deaf our governor is. Having the embarrassment of seeing the NBA All-Star Game taken from the city where he was once mayor wasn’t enough for McCrory, who seemed to delight in the attention the snub brought. Did he really think the NCAA was powerless to further inflict pain on the cities of his state?
McCrory has now hurt North Carolina. His senseless crowing about bathrooms and birth certificates has made him look like fool in front of the entire country. And now he’s dragged us into it and forced us to pay.
This didn’t have to come to this. Cooler heads could've worked this out. People with sense don’t do this. Governors with compassion for the people they represent don’t allow this to happen.
This might indeed be the beginning of a mistake for the NCAA. This might be something it doesn’t want to get involved in. Again, there are far worse states for civil liberties than North Carolina.
But we’re a state that loves sports. We’re a state that considers basketball and soccer and baseball and golf to be part of our identity. We've hosted a men's postseason basketball tournament, ACC or NCAA, every year since 1985, but we won't in 2017.
This is a blow to our way of life. This is a slap in the face of a state that has long been a model of progressive ideas.
McCrory has made a fool of himself and made us all pay for his foolish ignorance. The best thing we can do now is hope for the best when the new sites are awarded and hope our governor has already rolled off the cliff by himself.