The NCAA announced Monday that it would remove seven championship events from North Carolina because of HB2, the controversial law that requires people to use the public restroom that matches the sex indicated on a person's birth certificate.
"Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships," NCAA president Mark 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."
It's great that the NCAA is making a statement about how much it values inclusion not just in sport, but in society. But the question is: what does this mean for NCAA member institutions that openly discriminate against LGBTQ students on their campuses?
It's absolutely fair for the NCAA to single out North Carolina; the state's law is blatantly discriminatory, and the statements made by Gov. Pat McCrory after its passage (and by the North Carolina GOP following the NCAA's announcement) underscore that fact. The law is a direct attack on gay people and trans people specifically, those most vulnerable to violence and vitriol within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
But the NCAA perpetuates LGBTQ discrimination in other areas of its governance. For example, a number of the NCAA member schools have applied for and been granted Title IX exemptions -- typically religious exemptions related to the usage of campus facilities, according to the Human Rights Campaign. In other words, religious schools are requesting (and being allowed) the right to restrict access to bathrooms, housing and sports based on gender identity. If that sounds a lot like what's happening in North Carolina, that's because it is.
To be fair, the NCAA does a lot through its Office of Inclusion to address LGBTQ equality. It has a policy protecting the abilities of trans people to play at the college level, and it provides materials about how to run LGBTQ-inclusive sports programs. It has hosted webinars on intra-team dating and summits on LGBTQ identity and faith, and every year the Office of Inclusion hosts its own conference. It's not like they do nothing.
What's frustrating is that the NCAA seems to want to have its cake and eat it too. The organization will move events, inform and educate, but when it comes to holding membership institutions accountable for their own discrimination, it falls short.
When asked for comment, the NCAA referred to its original statement, in which board of governors vice chairman Jay Lemons said, "Our membership comprises many different types of schools -- public, private, secular, faith-based -- and we believe this action appropriately reflects the collective will of that diverse group."
In July, the NBA decided to move its All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of North Carolina's law, and earlier this year, the NFL drew criticism for not moving the 2017 Super Bowl from Houston after local voters repealed an LGBTQ-inclusive human rights ordinance. Frankly, the logistics of where leagues are playing or not playing their games are getting tiring.
The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA could affect sustainable, tangible change all the way down to youth playing sports if they committed to doing so. The major sports leagues have a long way to go before they're able to earn anything more than a golf clap of acknowledgement.
Nevertheless, this step is unprecedented for the NCAA in its recognition of LGBTQ rights. It should be applauded for it. This thinking also should filter down to college and university campuses.
Only time will tell.