NCAA returns events to North Carolina after state repeals elements of HB2

NCAA tournament games will return to North Carolina next year. (AP)

The NCAA tournament is coming back to North Carolina.

The state on Tuesday was awarded a women’s basketball regional in Charlotte in 2019 and men’s first- and second-round games in Greensboro in 2020 and Raleigh in 2021. It also will retain men’s NCAA tournament games previously earmarked for Charlotte in 2018.

The decision comes seven months after the NCAA stripped North Carolina of seven championship events to condemn the passage of a controversial bill by the state’s General Assembly. The so-called “bathroom bill” limited protections for LGBT people and forced transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding with their birth gender rather than the gender with which they identify.

At the time, the NCAA said its events must “promote an inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans.” The governing body did not feel it could guarantee host communities in North Carolina could deliver such an environment.

After North Carolina repealed elements of the law a few weeks ago, the NCAA released a statement saying it “reluctantly” would allow for consideration of bids from the state.

The replacement bill was a compromise between those who supported the initial incarnation of HB2 and those who wanted it repealed but lacked sufficient seats in the state legislature to do so. Many believe the new legislation still doesn’t go far enough in protecting the LGBT community.

“North Carolina’s new law does nothing to guarantee that LGBT people will be protected from discrimination” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement. “When the NCAA originally withdrew events from North Carolina, they did so because they claimed to care about ‘fairness and inclusion’ for college athletes and fans. It’s a shame to see that those concerns have already fallen by the wayside.”

While the decision to return events to North Carolina was the most notable aspect of the NCAA’s Tuesday announcement, there was some other host site news:

Dayton will continue to host the First Four through 2022 just as it has every year since 2001. South Carolina, which this year regained the right to host NCAA events now that the confederate flag is no longer flown at the statehouse, will host first- and second-round games in Columbia in 2019 and Greenville in 2022.

Regional sites through 2022 were determined. Kansas City, Louisville, Anaheim and Washington D.C. will host in 2019. New York, Houston, Los Angeles and Indianapolis will host in 2020. Brooklyn, Memphis, Minneapolis and Denver will host in 2021. And Philadelphia, Chicago, San Antonio and San Francisco will host in 2022.

Five upcoming Final Four sites have already been announced. They are San Antonio (2018), Minneapolis (2019), Atlanta (2020), Indianapolis (2021) and New Orleans (2022).