Forest defends HB2 against NCAA deadline pressure
Posted March 23
Updated March 28
Raleigh, N.C. — With the deadline looming for an NCAA decision on the future host cities for years worth of championships, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest wrote to his legislative colleagues urging them to resist pressure to change the controversial HB2.
The NCAA has indicated it will leave North Carolina out of the process if the state hasn't changed the law that limits LGBT rights, and is making those decisions this week.
In a statement Thursday, exactly one year to the day after the law was passed, the sports organization said its committees would begin picking championship sites for 2018-22 and would announce those decisions April 18. The statement also noted that "once the sites are selected by the committee, those decisions are final."
On Tuesday, Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said he believed the window for North Carolina was within hours of closing.
“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now," Dupree said in a statement.
"If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids. The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”
The NCAA's position has not changed since last fall, when it pulled seven championship events from the state because of the law known as HB2.
Forest, calling the NCAA as "an unaccountable, out of state organization, not elected by the people," said he was "deeply troubled" that elected officials would be influenced by the threat of losing championships.
"I fear that if our General Assembly succumbs to this new form of economic and corporate extortion, we will be establishing a precedent and illustrating a template for future corporate extortion efforts," he wrote.
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.
Republican legislators approved the bill while Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper wants the law fully repealed. A proposed repeal deal failed in December at the legislature.
The North Carolina Sports Association has said more than 130 bids have been submitted to the NCAA, estimating more than $250 million in potential economic impact.
House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, told reporters last week that he and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, have been discussing a bill and sharing the ideas with rank-and-file GOP members. Moore declined to give many details about what's being discussed but said the legislature wouldn't back away from keeping in law the ability for state lawmakers only — not local governments — to regulate who can use public restrooms and shower facilities.
"We're not going to change that," Moore said.
A February 2016 nondiscrimination ordinance by the Charlotte, North Carolina, city council led the General Assembly to approve HB2 the following month.
Moore said some changes can be made to North Carolina law that would make it essentially identical to laws in surrounding states.
"If those changes were made, there would be absolutely no justification for the NCAA, the (Atlantic Coast Conference), anyone else to treat North Carolina any different than those other states," Moore said.
When asked whether the proposal would satisfy the NCAA, Moore responded: "If I didn't have pretty good assurances that a number of people thought that there was a pathway to seeing a resolution of these issues, than I wouldn't be wasting my time doing it."
Greensboro was scheduled to host first- and second-round games in the men's NCAA Tournament last weekend and Charlotte is scheduled to host opening-weekend NCAA Tournament games next year. The games scheduled for Greensboro were relocated to Greenville, South Carolina. Playing before what effectively was a home crowd, seventh-seeded South Carolina upset second-seeded Duke on Sunday night.
The law also led the ACC to pull its neutral-site championships out of its home state for this academic year, moving its football championship game to Orlando, Florida, and its women's basketball tournament to Conway, South Carolina. This year's NBA All-Star game was moved from Charlotte to New Orleans, and some businesses halted expansions and musicians canceled concerts in the state.