If any one group should be succinct in its opposition of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2) it is the NCAA. College athletics represents a melting pot of different nationalities, races, genders and sexual preferences among its administrators, coaches, athletes and fans.
The governing body has taken a stand before against discrimination, prejudice and profiling. It must again be proactive in addressing North Carolina’s controversial law passed in March that bans anti-discrimination measures based on sexual orientation and gender identity and requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates.
Last Friday, following the news that the NBA is pulling its All-Star Game from Charlotte in 2017 because of HB2, the NCAA announced it will survey potential future championship sites if their cities, counties and states have passed “passed antidiscrimination laws that are applicable to all persons” and if they have laws that “regulate choice of bathrooms or locker rooms.”
In April, right after HB2 was instituted, the NCAA Board of Governors adopted a rule requiring host sites to “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination and also safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”
The championship site survey and non-discrimination rule instituted by the NCAA Board of Governors suggests North Carolina – if it does not rescind HB2 – will not host an NCAA tournament game in future years beyond 2017 and 2018, when Greensboro and Charlotte are set to be host sites, respectively.
The ACC football championship game is slated to be at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte through 2019. The Belk Bowl, pitting teams from the SEC and ACC, is also played in that stadium.
For the NCAA to have a resounding voice against the discriminatory law, it must rule with an iron fist and cease all postseason events in North Carolina after the 2018 NCAA tournament. It cannot employ a wait-and-see attitude as the ACC has demonstrated with its football title game.
The NCAA has a history of being assertive when it comes to anti-discrimination policies. Favorable results have come from that. If it failed to act swiftly or not take action, it would tear at the fabric of what the NCAA is all about as an all-inclusive entity. The ACC should follow their lead with the football title game instead of commissioner John Swofford saying his conference will “see how this plays out and where it ends up” in regards to North Carolina’s HB2 law.
That’s not taking a stand. That’s sitting it out. It’s also a disservice to many of the league’s administrators, coaches and athletes with diverse backgrounds.
The NCAA has boycotted states in the past over ideological differences. South Carolina and Mississippi became banned from hosting most championship games because they flew the Confederate flag over their statehouses. In 2005, the NCAA barred about 20 colleges from hosting postseason games over what the governing body deemed as having “hostile” Native American mascots.
That number has since declined after teams changed their names or received waivers after getting support from the tribes they were named after. Examples of the changes includes St. John’s going from the Redmen to the Red Storm and Miami (Ohio) transitioning from the Redskins to the RedHawks,
South Carolina’s 15-year ban by the NCAA from hosting championship events was lifted last July when the state finally removed the Confederate flag from its government buildings. The removal of the flags came about after nine people were killed in the historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in a racially charged killing.
Mississippi, which has the Confederate flag within its state flag, now is the only state serving NCAA’s ban.
Indiana, with its NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, passed a law last year that gives businesses the right to refuse service to gay people. That left the NCAA up in arms with president Mark Emmert sharply criticizing the Indiana law makers.
“We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees,” Emmert said in a statement. “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”
With the survey released Friday by the NCAA, it appears Indiana, much like North Carolina, may be without championship events unless the controversial laws are rescinded. Indianapolis has consistently been a Final Four destination as well as a regional final spot in the NCAA tournament.
“We are committed to providing a championship experience within an inclusive environment for student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans,” said Mark Lewis, NCAA executive vice president for championships and alliances. “With the Board of Governors’ direction, we are taking steps to assure that anyone associated with an NCAA championship event will be treated with fairness and respect.”
Those steps can’t be long and drawn out. They must be immediate and to the point. The many athletes, including their families, with diverse backgrounds, are taking note of the response of their institutions, conferences and the NCAA to these discriminatory laws.
The NCAA has a significant responsibility in that regard to do what is right without delay. It must lead the way in fighting back. We have come to expect that because of all that they represent.