Time has run out for the North Carolina legislature and Governor Pat McCrory. On Thursday, the NBA announced it would be moving its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to another city. The reason? House Bill 2. The dreaded “bathroom bill,” which has made national headlines in recent months, has been widely viewed as discriminatory toward the transgender community. It also has components that have made the LGBTQ community as a whole feel unwanted by the Tar Heel State.
This move from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is likely to be a wake-up call around the sports world and certainly could set a precedent going forward for other sports leagues. But could this send the sports world down another slippery slope in how it handles social issues and the states in which those social issues are treated differently?
Let's start with North Carolina. Who knew that ignorance could be so expensive? It’s possible to put a price on the city of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina losing the All-Star Game - more than $100 million lost in economic impact if you look back at the 2014 edition of the game in New Orleans.
How do you put a price on your job? Governor Pat McCrory may have just sealed his fate as it relates to a potential re-election in November. He already trails by four points to Democrat Roy Cooper in the most recent poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. The trends have been going in the wrong direction over the past month for the Governor. And who knows what impact this could have up-ballot as it pertains to a presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that many believe will be very close come election night? In North Carolina, Clinton holds a six-point lead among North Carolinians.
Back to the economic impact for a moment. As I detailed a few weeks back, the financial loss for the city of Charlotte and the state-at-large has already been enormous. This isn’t just a music act deciding to pack up their things and go home. This is a week-long event that uses multiple venues. Local businesses will feel the hurt as a result of this decision by the state legislature and the failure of its governor to find a solution to this flawed legislation in a timely manner.
Adam Silver has proven himself to be the most proactive commissioner in all of sports. In a day and age where so many seem to be playing from behind in reacting to the news of the day, Silver continues his run as the top dog of the NBA by looking ahead. I still question why we still live in an era without a single openly gay athlete in any of the four major league sports. Yes there was Jason Collins for about 5 minutes in the NBA and Michael Sam for a few pre-season games in the NFL, but something still exists in the culture of our major league team sports that keeps men in the closet. It’s something I have tried to speak with Silver about. Thus far, my request for an interview with him has been denied. I hope that changes in the future. The dialogue in that regard needs to keep moving forward.
I mentioned the slippery slope that this move by the NBA could lead to. Normally the term “slippery slope” is viewed in a negative light. I don’t mean it to come across that way. But let me paint you a picture. The DeVos family owns the Orlando Magic. Richard DeVos, who co-founded Amway, has reportedly given $235,000 to a group called the Alliance Defending Freedom. To say they are anti-gay would be putting it mildly. Now, some will combat that statement by showing me the story where the DeVos family and the Orlando Magic donated $500,000 to the victims of the Orlando gay nightclub shooting. But years of contributing to homophobic rhetoric can’t be whitewashed by a contribution that is made by a professional sports team in the community in which it resides. Should the NBA start vetting ownership groups to see which social causes they do or do not support? Finding a spot for All-Star Games or league meetings could become pretty dicey if we start digging through financial statements to see where the money goes.
In recent days we’ve seen players become more outspoken on social issues such as the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Will those same players speak out when it comes to homophobia both in and out of sports? I don’t think we’ve quite reached that point on the player level yet. Yes, there are initiatives such as “You Can Play.” But how much cajoling is done in getting players to participate versus the other social issues that athletes seem to be emotionally invested in? One thing is certain. The NBA has invested itself into the LGBTQ issue. And there is no turning back now.