NCAA, NBA and ACC say they're pro-LGBT -- now's their chance to prove it

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

On Thursday, the North Carolina General Assembly approved HB142, a bill brokered between Governor Roy Cooper and the legislative leadership that partially repeals the much-maligned HB2.

The NCAA, which pulled its championship events from the state after HB2 was passed in March 2016, had set a deadline of Thursday for North Carolina to rescind the measure, which restricted transgender people's use of public bathrooms. So on the surface, it looks like the game of chicken between North Carolina and the NCAA is coming to an end.

Sort of.

The repeal bill is presented as a compromise, but it's anything but. This "compromise" does, in fact, strip the anti-trans bathroom regulation language from the statute, but it also disallows local governments from "regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodations" until 2020.

Additionally, HB142 states that state agencies -- including the University of North Carolina and North Carolina Community College systems -- may not "regulate access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities, except in accordance with an act of the general assembly." In plain English, those school systems can't require the installation of gender-inclusive locker rooms or bathrooms, even if they wanted to, because they're part of the state government.

If the NCAA accepts North Carolina's measure and moves forward with reinstating its events, it would send a clear message to LGBTQ people broadly -- and trans people more specifically -- that the previous decision to pull post-season games was based upon political expediency, rather than on the conviction that all LGBTQ athletes, fans, coaches and administrators are worthy of human dignity.

The NCAA would also send the "all clear" signal to the NBA and ACC, who also pulled events from the state after the passage of HB2.

The NCAA, ACC and NBA would be turning their backs on the LGBTQ community should they cave now. A law that prohibits LGBTQ inclusion is no better than one that codifies discrimination, and no state should be rewarded with an economy boost for such a stance (a recent AP report pegged the cost of HB2 in North Carolina at $3.76 billion in lost business).

Rewarding the North Carolina legislature's lazy effort would set a dangerous precedent for what these leagues will tolerate moving forward. For example, Texas is considering SB6, a bill that regulates bathrooms in a similar anti-trans fashion as HB2, and there are many anti-LGBTQ bills pending elsewhere. Backing HB142 will do nothing to quell this wave. It does the opposite, in fact -- fanning the flames of anti-LGBTQ movements across the country.

If the NCAA, NBA and ACC are to abide by the values they have espoused in the press and pride parades (looking at you, NBA), they must stand united with LGBTQ people in opposition to this law. It's not a mistake that the major LGBTQ organizations, including Human Rights Campaign, Athlete Ally and the LGBTQ Task Force, are opposed to this compromise.

The NCAA, ACC and NBA have all publicly stated that they endorse LGBTQ equality through their opposition to the discrimination laced in HB2. Now is their chance to prove it.

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