North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said he needs House Bill 2 to be repealed by the end of February to prevent the state from being shut out from hosting NCAA championship events through 2022, Cooper said on the ESPN/ABC News podcast Capital Games on Wednesday.
"They make the final decisions in April, but these committees start meeting before then," said Cooper, who won election in November with HB2 as a major campaign issue. "They start analyzing these bids from various cities across the country. I've told [the Legislature] that we need to do something by the end of this month. We need to take action by February, because during March, these committees are going to be forming and meeting and talking."
NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn reiterated to ESPN on Wednesday that "the NCAA decided in September to remove championships from North Carolina for the 2016-17 season, and it has not yet determined further championship sites. The NCAA expects to announce site selections for the 2018-19 through 2021-22 championship seasons in April."
North Carolina lost a number of championship events over the controversial bill, including the NBA All-Star Game that originally was slated for this week in Charlotte but was moved to New Orleans; last month's ACC championship football game, which was supposed to be in Charlotte but was moved to Orlando, Florida; and the first and second rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, which were supposed to be held next month in Greensboro but were moved to Greenville, South Carolina.
South Carolina is back in play for NCAA championship-awarded events now that the Confederate flag has been removed from the state capital in Columbia.
"I think our chances can be hurt if we don't do something by the end of February," Cooper said. "We need to move on this. They passed HB2 in 12 hours. If they can repeal, they can repeal it in less time than that when they set their mind to it."
Cooper held a news conference Tuesday in Raleigh and introduced a compromise proposal. He asked for a repeal but also tougher penalties on any bathroom crimes and a requirement for local governments to let lawmakers know a month in advance about any nondiscrimination ordinances.
HB2 has been a polarizing issue in the state and beyond. The bill was passed on March 23 in a special legislative session and signed by then-Republican Gov. Pat McCrory on the same day. The most controversial part of the bill mandates people to use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex on their birth certificate in public buildings, places and schools.
"North Carolina for decades has been a beacon in the South, a forward-thinking state, and certainly we have been a sports mecca," Cooper said. "College basketball, Tobacco Road, is an incredible place for sports in North Carolina. And now we have this HB2 that was passed in about 12 hours. It was hastily pushed through, and we're trying to fix it."
Cooper said North Carolina is in danger of being taken off the list for an estimated 133 championship events over the next five to six years.
"We continue to hear from Republican leadership that they want a compromise proposal," Cooper said. "I don't think HB2 does anything to improve the safety of people in public restrooms and dressing rooms, and in fact, the kind of rhetoric that's being used is wrong. I do not think that LGBT people propose any kind of threat to people."
Asked how his proposal was received, Cooper said, "Unfortunately, you continue to have the ramped-up rhetoric about safety in bathrooms -- and the kind of thing that really we don't need in this debate, because it really has nothing to do with safety."