In an unprecedented and monumental decision, the NBA will move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, N.C. to another state because of North Carolina’s controversial anti-LGBT law called House Bill 2.
“While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” the league said in a statement Thursday.
It is an issue NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league have wrestled with since North Carolina lawmakers passed House Bill 2. The law, which was passed during a special session in March, bans local municipalities from enacting non-discriminatory ordinances designed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The league said Charlotte will play host to the 2019 All-Star Game “provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.”
The NBA’s decision to relocate – a new site for 2017 has not been determined – was met with support from individuals, businesses and advocacy groups and disappointment in state leaders.
Because of the political and social divide over the issue, not everyone backed the NBA’s decision, including Gov. Pat McCrory who blamed “the sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media.”
“American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process,” he said in a statement.
Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, released this statement:
“As a member of the NBA family and as a gay man, I’m extremely proud to see the NBA take initiative and move the All-Star Game from North Carolina. Their decision is an extremely poignant one and shows that discrimination of any kind is not welcome in sports and is not acceptable in any part of our society. The NBA has set the best kind of example and precedent moving forward for all to follow.”
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Cyd Zeigler of Outsports told USA TODAY Sports, “The NBA set an example for other leagues to follow. This is a stark contrast to how the NFL has handled its issues, such as the Super Bowl in Houston or its owner meeting in Charlotte. The NFL prints money essentially, but doesn’t prioritize LGBT inclusion. The NBA, with its corporate culture and leadership, took a major stand against discrimination.”
North Carolina general assembly representative and executive director of Equality NC Chris Sgro fought to repeal the bill or change the law. He feared the NBA would relocate if the state did not make significant changes to the law.
“The alarm bells have been going off for three months now at the incredibly economic harm of HB 2 and the NBA has expressed its concern over the safety, security and comfort of all fans,” Sgro told USA TODAY Sports. “We understand that concern, and I just cannot believe that Gov. McCrory is so negligent as to let to the city of Charlotte and state of North Carolina to lose the NBA All-Star Game.”
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The All-Star Game was expected to generate $100 million of revenue for the state, according to Athlete Ally, and since the law was passed, the state has lost $329 million in business, according to Equality NC.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, “Enter the real world I would say to some states. I agree with the league and … everybody else who pulled out.”
The NBA expressed its disappointment and concern about the bill in March, and Silver was consistent in his message: if the law wasn’t changed, he had a difficult time envisioning the All-Star Game in a state where all fans didn’t feel included.
Three months ago at the Associated Press Sports Editors meeting, Silver said, “We’ve been, I think, crystal clear a change in the law is necessary for us to play in the kind of environment that we think is appropriate for a celebratory NBA event.”
Silver had hoped the league could help effect change by working with state government and private businesses.
The state’s general assembly had a chance to revise or repeal the bill before adjourning for the year but did not make changes that could have appeased the NBA. The league had received assurances from the city of Charlotte and local businesses that all fans would be welcome. But that wasn’t enough.
As recently as July 12, Silver said, “The question for us becomes in this situation, given the controversy, given the amount of discussion, given how hardened the views are there, is this the place we should be in February 2017 as the epicenter of global basketball where we can go and celebrate our game and our values?”
The league found its answer.
Contributing: Scott Gleeson, Tonya Maxwell, Asheville Citizen-Times
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter at @JeffZillgitt.
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