Ex-N.C. governor slams NBA over China controversy, cries hypocrisy over ‘bathroom bill’ handling

Ryan Young

Former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory didn’t hold back when talking about the NBA’s controversy with China on Tuesday, and called commissioner Adam Silver hypocritical in how he’s handling it compared to how he handled HB2, or the “bathroom bill,” in the state in 2016.

The NBA is currently on damage control after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong — which set off a chain of events in the hours and days that followed. The league removed the NBA All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2016 over HB2 — a bill in the state that would have allowed for discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

“I see hypocrisy,” McCrory said, via the Charlotte Observer. “[The NBA] wanted to involve themselves with North Carolina commerce and an election, while not setting the same standard for China. I called them out then, and it’s still true now.”

What was HB2, and how did the NBA handle it?

The “bathroom bill” was passed in North Carolina in 2016 and required that transgender people in government and public buildings in the state use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate, according to the New York Times. It also prohibited cities from adopting anti-discrimination policies that would have protected the LGBTQ community.

Naturally, this bill sparked widespread outrage across the country.

Multiple companies delayed or canceled plans to expand or conduct business in the state, and the NCAA even banned holding championship events in the state over the bill.

The NBA made a similar move, electing to move the 2017 All-Star weekend from Charlotte. It awarded the city the event last season after the bill was rescinded.

"Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community — current and former players, league and team officials, business partners and fans,” the NBA said at the time, via ESPN. “While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2."

In total, according to the Charlotte Observer, economic losses in the state as a result of the bill are estimated to be around $4 billion.

Pat McCrory calls out NBA commissioner Adam Silver, shown here, and likens the NBA’s controversy in China to the All-Star Game in 2017, which was pulled over the discriminatory “bathroom bill” in the state. (Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
Pat McCrory calls out NBA commissioner Adam Silver, shown here, and likens the NBA’s controversy in China to the All-Star Game in 2017, which was pulled over the discriminatory “bathroom bill” in the state. (Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)

Why McCrory thinks Silver is being ‘hypocritical’

McCrory — a Republican who served as governor from 2013-17 and was also the longtime mayor of Charlotte from 1995-2009 — was a big supporter of HB2. He told the Charlotte Observer that he thought the NBA’s decision to pull All-Star weekend had nothing to do with the principal of the law.

“They were losing some sponsorships [in the wake of the bill],” McCrory said, via the Charlotte Observer. “They told me that flat-out on the phone.”

Yet, it’s the NBA’s reaction to Morey’s tweet — which the league initially called “regrettable,” saying that it “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China” — that McCrory thinks is hypocritical.

Because there is so much money at stake for the league in the Chinese market, he said, the league is taking a cautious approach. It was so quick to pull the All-Star Game from North Carolina over a political issue, he said, but isn’t doing the same with China.

“Their moral high ground back in July of 2016 helped boycott commerce in North Carolina and actually interfere with the 2016 gubernatorial elections in which I was one of the candidates,” McCrory said on WBT1110 AM. “The head of the NBA stood up in July of 2016 just months before the November election and said, ‘We’re cancelling the NBA game in Charlotte because of a moral issue.’ … Nike makes all of its shoes in China in near slave-labor conditions and you say nothing, yet you boycotted our state and interfered with our election by expressing your political opinions without saying similar political opinions about other countries.”

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