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North Carolina HB2 Reboot Satisfies NCAA

Wednesday, April 5, 2017   (0 Comments)

Controversial ‘bathroom bill’ gets an overhaul, some unhappy with reset

Tuesday, April 4, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) officially ended its ban on holding NCAA events in North Carolina. The prohibition was put in place after the passage of HB2 in March 2016, a bill that removed anti-discrimination protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and required transgender people to use bathrooms in public facilities that matched the gender on their birth certificates.

In a statement, NCAA officials said they “reluctantly” ended the ban because the HB2 replacement bill, called HB142, “minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment.” Whether North Carolina will secure any of the games for 2019-2022 seasons will be announced by NCAA officials on April 18.

HB142 does away with the restrictive bathroom provisions of HB2 and leaves regulation of bathrooms up to the state legislature. It also puts constraints on North Carolina cities from enacting their own LGBT antidiscrimination statutes until 2020.

Some are hopeful the new bill will ease the tension in the state and that events and conventions will return to the state, while activists on both sides of the debate have deemed the "compromise bill" insufficient.

“This issue has definitely impacted Charlotte’s visitor economy over the last year,” said Tom Murray, CEO, Charlotte (N.C.) Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA). “We’re grateful to see that the NCAA has renewed its faith in North Carolina and the Charlotte region once again. The NCAA events are far more important to our region than just the significant economic impact they inject into our community. We’re energized that we’ll be able to both partner with the NCAA and compete to host these events in the coming years.”

With the NCAA back on board, many in North Carolina are hoping for a domino effect that will entice many other organizations and artists that refused to come to the state to return.

It is unknown yet whether NCAA’s decision to play in North Carolina again will affect the eight other states that are currently debating their own “bathroom bills,” but many of the sponsors and supporters of those bills are taking comfort in the resolution of the North Carolina ban.

Texas Republican State Senator Lois Kolkhorst and the author of Senate Bill 6, a bill similar to HB2, was thrilled with the NCAA’s decision on Tuesday. “I applaud the NCAA for now agreeing that there is nothing discriminatory about the Texas Privacy Act or our honest efforts to address the serious issue of privacy and safety in our public facilities and school showers, locker rooms and restrooms.”

Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina and South Dakota are the other states that currently have “bathroom bill” legislation pending.

Many venues in North Carolina are enthusiastic about the repeal, but cautious. “It’s a good start and I’m optimistic,” said Jeff Bentley, director, Broyhill Civic Center, Lenoir, N.C. “But we’re in a waiting circle. The new law needs to go through the rounds to see how it will shake out.”

“We lost business,” said Rebecca Bolton, GM, Durham (N.C.) Convention Center. “We’d like to think people will understand it’s a new day and we want them to come back.”

Chaos quickly followed the passing of HB2 with major artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Cyndi Lauper, Boston, and Ringo Starr refusing to play the state, as well as sporting event cancelations from the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the National Basketball Association, which withdrew its All-Star Game.

"We will contact all of the concert promoters we work with on a regular basis to ensure that all of the musical artists they represent, including Bruce Springsteen and Boston, who canceled previously scheduled concerts in Greensboro, N.C., due to HB2 are also aware of the repeal,” said Scott Johnson, deputy director, Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum Complex, in a statement to Venues Today.

When contacted, a spokesman for Springsteen said that Springsteen “has said everything about the law he plans to say” while Steven Van Zant, a member Springsteen's E Street band, tweeted after the repeal and replacement, "It ain't over until the LGBT community and the ACLU say it's over."

Others in the state agree that the HB142 replacement does not change the equation.

“I think HB142 was an attempt to do something about the disaster of HB2, but in my opinion it was not nearly enough,” said North Carolina State Representative Cecil Brockman. “Each entity that pulled out jobs or events will have to analyze the bill for itself, but I do not think it was a clear solution to the issue of discrimination. I think any organization, company, or person who claims to care about equality needs to continue to stand strong for those values.”

Equally unhappy are North Carolina conservatives who see the “compromise bill” as a step backward. "This whole issue has been political from the beginning and I guess it's going to end that way," said Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven. "We sold ourselves. The people sitting up there in the galleries are no longer the people that we represent and are no longer the people who we work for. The people on the basketball courts are who we work for."

In total, direct spending losses for cancellations related to HB2 are $83.9 million, according to Laura White, director of communications, CRVA.

“The state lost $77.1 million in direct spending from sports and $6.8 million in convention center revenue,” said White. “We also lost over 63,000 hotel bookings and countless other amounts from dining, shopping and other tourist activity.”

George Habel, VP/Sports Group Capitol Broadcasting Co., said, “We lost the ACC baseball tournament. That was an event that would have drawn 60,000-70,000 people and we lost $2-3 million dollars over the week because of the cancelation. We also lost momentum on hosting that event permanently going forward because we were in the middle of a four-year contract.”

“We are relieved and grateful that our Governor and legislative leaders powered through their deadlock over this and we hope it’s viewed as a resolution by the NCAA and ACC,” he said, “Hopefully we’ll be back in business next spring.”

“Everyone is not jumping for joy because it was a compromise and there are people on both sides of the issue that are not happy today,” said Habel.

One of the unhappy is North Carolina State Representative Deb Butler. “We lost $3.6 billion in revenue, which is enormous considering the entire state budget is only $23 billion. HB142 does nothing to protect the LGBT community and doesn’t address the bigger picture of nondiscrimination. Some felt it was a good first step; I respectfully disagree.”

North Carolina’s southern neighbor, South Carolina, was the beneficiary of some of the business that fled North Carolina is the wake of HB2’s passage including men’s/women’s ACC tournaments, conventions and concerts.

Despite the NCAA decision, Duane Parrish, director, South Carolina Department of Parks and Tourism, is not confident that HB142 addresses all of the issues that HB2 brought to his neighbor state. “Both sides seem unhappy with what they did and it’s a possibility that North Carolina will continue to lose business,” he said. “Sports, concerts and conventions all equate to economic impact. It seems like there is still the risk that things will be perceived as still not fair and equal.”