The NBA announced on Wednesday that the 2019 All-Star Game will be held in Charlotte, two years after it was originally scheduled for 2017 and later moved due to North Carolina's controversial HB2 law, which came under heavy criticism from LGBTQ and social justice advocates. The bill set off a wave of protests and boycotts, which ranged from Bruce Springsteen to children's book authors to Paypal.
Eventually, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill revising elements of the bill. However, many activist and civil rights groups have stated the revisions do not go far enough in effectively repealing the original law. The NBA made it clear in its statement regarding the decision to host the 2019 All-Star Weekend in Charlotte that certain standards and guidelines for equality must be met, but even those words are being met with skepticism from rights groups.
Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign issued the following statement Wednesday:
Today, Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) responded to the NBA's decision to bring back the All-Star Game to Charlotte in 2019. The NBA had previously moved their 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte in response to HB2, the deeply discriminatory law that put LGBTQ North Carolinians in harm's way and cost the state over $600 million. Since then, HB2 has been replaced by another law — HB 142 — that continues the same anti-LGBTQ scheme put forward by the original measure.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated that event sites, hotels, and businesses involved with the NBA All-Star Game must put in place non-discrimination policies inclusive of the LGBTQ community. However, no such protections have been publicly proposed by the city or the state of North Carolina at this point.
"We need to see concrete guidelines and policies put in place that will live up to the proposed principles put forward by the NBA designed to protect all of its players and fans," said Equality NC Interim Executive Director Matt Hirschy. "As we move forward with the NBA All-Star Game returning to Charlotte, LGBTQ people must be invited to the discussions between the NBA, the city of Charlotte and NCGA leadership to provide input and feedback on how to best protect LGBTQ people."
"North Carolina's discriminatory law prohibits the city of Charlotte from implementing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents and visitors attending the All-Star Game. Nothing has changed that fact," said HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof. "It's critically important that people understand the gravity of this situation, which has had the effect of extending discrimination and endangering LGBTQ people across the state of North Carolina."
The NBA has been an outspoken opponent of HB2. However, HB 142 is not an HB2 repeal and replaces one discriminatory, anti-transgender bathroom bill with another. It bans local LGBTQ non-discrimination protections statewide through 2020, and it substitutes the previous anti-transgender bathroom provisions with a new provision that forbids state agencies, public universities, primary and secondary schools, and cities from adopting policies ensuring transgender people have access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
Athlete Ally, an official partner with the NBA on such issues, even issued its own statement expressing concern and calling the move "troubling."
The NBA is clearly invested in these matters, and the debate centers around whether they have taken a hard enough stance on this issue or if they simply sought a reasonable compromise that left them uneasy, but satisfied with the conditions in place legally to hold the annual extravaganza in Charlotte. There will be much more conversation about these issues that the league will have to navigate between now and 2019.