The current political climate of the United States is tumultuous.
The NCAA under Mark Emmert tends to be vocal about issues it disagrees with.
Water is wet.
The truth in these statements, or at least the first two, have led to numerous public battles between state legislators and the NCAA, and it seems as though they are becoming more frequent and vicious.
As conservative lawmakers have gained power in recent years, proposing and enacting laws that, depending on your own leanings, could be considered regressive or protectionist, the NCAA has seemingly taken a more progressive stance. It’s strange to even consider that an organization like the NCAA, which represents hundreds of universities from all across the country, could seem so politically one sided, but when viewed individually, the justification often comes down to what makes for better public perception.
That isn’t to say the NCAA hasn’t been fighting the more noble fight lately. There just tend to be additional benefits to picking one side over the other.
The most notable example is the battle waged over North Carolina’s HB2, often known as the “bathroom bill.” North Carolina passed the contentious bill one year ago which, among other things, required transgender individuals to use public restrooms that corresponded with their birth gender. Citing the apparent discrimination in the bill, the NCAA moved multiple NCAA championship events from the state. A move that would prove ironic considering the circumstances the relocated Greenville Regional of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament were played under.
Now, the NCAA has issued an ultimatum: Repeal HB2 or lose all NCAA events until 2022.
While North Carolina seems intent on keeping the bill, the effects of this move by the NCAA are being seen elsewhere. Just in the last few months, similar bills in Tennessee and Virginia have been voted down. Similar bills in Texas and Arkansas have been blasted by city officials in part due to the expected negative economic impact of losing events like those hosted by the NCAA.
In some cases, however, the NCAA doesn’t even have to be directly involved for the specter of college athletics to alter a bill. Take, for example, a new measure in Arkansas aimed at expanding where individuals may carry concealed firearms. While GOP lawmakers are fine allowing weapons on the grounds of universities, government buildings, and even the state Capitol, a clear line had to be drawn on Wednesday exempting college sporting events. That means no guns in Razorback Stadium, a venue that, as ArkansasOnline points out, doesn’t even trust its patrons with umbrellas.
States are fighting back. In an odd turn of events, conservative North Carolina on the East Coast, and vastly liberal California in the West are at the same time proposing athlete welfare bills, advocating for the health and safety of players under the NCAA’s purview. While motivations for each bill might appear different, the intended health results are ones that many have argued for decades that the NCAA should consider.
North Carolina’s bill, however, does go quite a bit further, arguing for athletes to be represented by agents, financial advisors, and attorneys. It also suggest that rules and punishments levied by the NCAA could receive government review, including transfer limitations.
Ultimately, conflicts between a state government and a national organization like the NCAA are inevitable. Our national love affair with college sports has always been a bit player in our political decisions, but in today’s political climate, the impact has been magnified tenfold.
In their conflict with North Carolina, the NCAA has taken a clear philosophical position, and despite the economic impacts, neither side seems willing to budge. This battle is far from over, and in coming years, it will not be considered unique.
Matthew Monte is Managing Editor of College AD and formerly Co-Managing Editor of Underdog Dynasty. He is a graduate of The B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration at UL Lafayette, mostly because it didn't require a foreign language. Matt is also a recovering stand up comedian who occasionally relapses.