The NCAA will once again allow the state of North Carolina to host college sports championship events, after Gov. Roy Cooper (D) last week signed a compromise law to repeal HB2, the anti-transgender law otherwise known as the “bathroom bill.”
HB2, which became law in March 2016, barred cities and localities from enacting laws to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and restricted public restroom access for transgender people.
The compromise to repeal the law but put in place new provisions drew immediate criticism from LGBTQ groups in North Carolina and across the country because, they said, it still left room for discrimination against transgender people. “HB2.0,” as one North Carolina LGBTQ group dubbed the compromise, still prohibits cities from passing nondiscrimination ordnances to protect transgender or other LGBTQ people until the end of 2020, leaving major parts of the discriminatory law in place.
But despite its strong stance against the original law, the NCAA’s Board of Governors “reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina,” the NCAA said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.
“This new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment,” the statement said. “If we find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met, we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time.”
“We have been assured by the state that this new law allows the NCAA to enact its inclusive policies by contract with communities, universities, arenas, hotels, and other service providers that are doing business with us, our students, other participants, and fans,” the statement continued.
The NCAA previously relocated seven championship events out of North Carolina ― including opening round games for this year’s men’s NCAA Tournament ― because of HB2’s passage. The organization is currently considering host sites for championship events to be held from 2018 to 2022, and delayed the process to give North Carolina a chance to repeal the law. The NCAA reportedly told lawmakers they had a deadline last week, and the compromise repeal plan was pushed through the state legislature soon after.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, which is based in North Carolina, also moved championship events out of the state last year. The conference said last week that it was open to returning events to the state.
But LGBTQ and civil rights groups, including the ACLU, pushed the NCAA to stay out of the state. Athlete Ally, an LGBT group that works in sports, blasted the compromise as a “fake repeal of HB2” that “makes it illegal to protect people from discrimination.”
“This replacement law fixes zero issues the NCAA found with the initial law HB2,” Athlete Ally said in a statement last week. “For that reason, the NCAA must continue to protect its LGBT constituents, and ban North Carolina from hosting championship events.”
LGBTQ groups continued their criticism following the NCAA’s announcement Tuesday morning.
“The NCAA’s decision to backtrack on their vow to protect LGBTQ players, employees and fans is deeply disappointing and puts people at risk,” Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “After drawing a line in the sand and calling for repeal of HB2, the NCAA simply let North Carolina lawmakers off the hook.”
Chris Sgro, the executive director of the North Carolina-based LGBTQ organization Equality NC, said in a statement that the NCAA’s decision “put a seal of approval on state-sanctioned discrimination.”
This article has been updated with more details on the law.