In one of the biggest economic consequences to come out of North Carolina's controversial law that bans transgender people from using bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities, the National Basketball Association has decided to pull the 2017 All-Star game out of Charlotte.
The league said in a statement Thursday that it hoped to reschedule the event in Charlotte for 2019, but that it did not believe the city could successfully host the game next year in the current political climate. A new location will be announced in the coming weeks.
New Orleans has emerged as the front-runner to host the 2017 game, according to The Vertical. Chicago, New York and Brooklyn are also being considered.
"Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community — current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans," said the NBA in a statement. "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."
Thursday's decision comes in response to lawmakers' failure to adequately scale back House Bill 2, a measure widely perceived as discriminatory toward LGBT individuals.
Enacted in a one-day special session last March, HB2 nullified all local nondiscrimination ordinances — including one passed in Charlotte to explicitly protect the LGBT community — and barred transgender people from using government building bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities. It quickly sparked a firestorm of criticism from the likes of businesses, musicians, and sports organizations responsible for pumping millions of dollars into North Carolina's economy.
Governor Pat McCrory, who has loudly and staunchly resisted overturning HB2, released a statement Thursday to warn American families that "the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process."
"The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present," the statement read. "Twenty-one other states have joined North Carolina to challenge the federal overreach by the Obama administration mandating their bathroom policies in all businesses and schools instead of allowing accommodations for unique circumstances. Left-wing special interest groups have no moral authority to try and intimidate the large majority of American parents who agree in common-sense bathroom and shower privacy for our children."
League MVP Stephen Curry, who grew up in Charlotte while his father played for the Hornets, said Thursday on ESPN he agreed with the NBA's decision, but was disappointed his hometown won't play host in February. "I know how much that would have meant to the city…," he said. "At the end of the day I love Charlotte."
Next month, a federal judge will hear arguments on a motion for a preliminary injunction that asks the court to block certain provisions of the law. Three other legal challenges to HB2 are currently pending, including one filed by the U.S. Justice Department.
For months, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets had been in conversation with North Carolina lawmakers, the governor's office, local business leaders and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts to try and come up with changes to HB2 that would satisfy all parties. In late June, North Carolina lawmakers did float changes to the law designed to address concerns over the fact that many transgender people come from states that don't allow alterations to birth certificates.
But LGBT rights advocates weren't satisfied, and neither was the NBA. In a joint statement with the Charlotte Hornets issued earlier this month, the league said it did not endorse the draft amendments to HB2 that were released to the media, and encouraged lawmakers to keep working on a compromise.
LGBT rights advocates quickly hailed the NBA's move on Thursday as a clear message that discriminatory legislation won't be tolerated.
"Today the NBA and Commissioner Silver sent a clear message that they won't stand for discrimination against LGBTQ employees, players or fans,"said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement. "The NBA repeatedly warned state lawmakers that their hateful HB2 law created an inhospitable environment for their 2017 All-Star Game and other events. Nevertheless, Governor McCrory, Senator Berger and Speaker Moore doubled down on HB2 and refused to undo their discriminatory and costly error in judgment. Every day that HB2 remains on the books, people across North Carolina are at risk of real harm. We appreciate the leadership of the NBA in standing up for equality and call once again on lawmakers to repeal this vile HB2 law."
Meanwhile, the Charlotte Hornets and Chairman Michael Jordan expressed disappointment, but also optimism that the city would have another chance to host the All-Star game so soon.
"We understand the NBA's decision and the challenges around holding the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte this season," read a statement release by the team. "There was an exhaustive effort from all parties to keep the event in Charlotte, and we are disappointed we were unable to do so. With that said, we are pleased that the NBA opened the door for Charlotte to host All-Star Weekend again as soon as an opportunity was available in 2019. We want to thank the City of Charlotte and the business community for their backing throughout this entire process, starting with the initial bid. We are confident that they will be just as supportive and enthusiastic for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game."