North Carolina repeals HB2 on day of NCAA deadline, NCAA to decide if changes are sufficient

The NCAA announced it would not bring events to North Carolina unless the state changed its controversial law. (AP)
The NCAA announced it would not bring events to North Carolina unless the state changed its controversial law. (AP)

North Carolina lawmakers passed a new bill Thursday that repeals House Bill 2, the controversial law that led the NCAA and other sports governing bodies to move major events away from the state, but does not reverse all aspects of it.

Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and Republican leaders in the state’s House and Senate announced a compromise late Wednesday night on the eve of the NCAA’s deadline for the state to change the law if it wanted to host postseason events between now and 2022. The deal has drawn strong criticism, especially from those who opposed HB2.

It is unclear if the changes introduced in the new bill will cause the NCAA to alter its position and allow its events to return to North Carolina. NCAA president Mark Emmert said Thursday that the association’s Board of Governors will decide in the coming days whether “this [new] bill is sufficient change.”

“There were four distinct problems that the board had with [HB2],” Emmert said. “And they removed some of them but not all of them. If you removed two or three of them, is that enough?”

The NCAA’s various sport committees are meeting this week to decide on host cities for postseason events from 2018 and 2022. The NCAA issued a statement last week saying it would not change its stance on the “bathroom bill,”  which, among other things, prevented transgender people from using public restrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify, and had reportedly set Thursday as the deadline for a repeal.

“Last year, the NCAA Board of Governors relocated NCAA championships scheduled in North Carolina because of the cumulative impact HB2 had on local communities’ ability to assure a safe, healthy, discrimination free atmosphere for all those watching and participating in our events,” the statement read. “Absent any change in the law, our position remains the same regarding hosting current or future events in the state.”

The new bill repeals HB2, but states that “No local government in this State may enact or amend an ordinance regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodations” until Dec. 1, 2020. A similar prohibition was a key aspect of HB2, which was the state’s response to a Charlotte anti-discrimination ordinance.

Here is a brief outline of the new bill:

It is therefore far from a foregone conclusion that the new bill will satisfy the NCAA. Some have concluded that the “repeal” is simply a way to maintain discriminatory laws while also making a pitch to the NCAA to bring events back to the state. “The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement.

The NCAA must decide if the changes outlined above are enough to bring events back to North Carolina. If they are, the 133 bids from North Carolina cities could be considered by the committees.

The ACC, which has also pulled events from the state, isn’t under the same time pressure that the NCAA is to analyze the new law and make a decision. Its commissioner, John Swofford, issued a statement Thursday: “The recently passed legislation allows the opportunity to reopen the discussion with the ACC Council of Presidents regarding neutral site conference championships being held in the state of North Carolina. This discussion will take place in the near future, and following any decisions by the ACC Council of Presidents, announcements will be forthcoming.”

The NCAA will announce hosts for postseason events from 2018 to 2022 on April 18.

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