The NCAA is pulling seven 2016-2017 championships from North Carolina because of the state’s stance on LGBT rights.
The championship events, which span a number of sports, include the first and second rounds of the 2017 Men’s Basketball Championship, NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. The only championships permitted in North Carolina this academic year are ones in which athletes earn the right to play the game on their campus.
“The NCAA Constitution clearly states our values of inclusion and gender equity,” said Susquehanna University President Jay Lemons, vice chairman of the NCAA Board of Governors. “Our membership comprises many different types of schools … and we believe this action appropriately reflects the collective will of that diverse group.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing board of collegiate sports, earlier this year announced a rule that requires any city that wants to host an NCAA event to be “free of discrimination.”
The announcement was a shot across the bow of the North Carolina Legislature, which had enacted what was seen as an anti LGBT law, most notably requiring that transgender people use the bathroom of the sex identified on their birth certificates, and blocking cities from passing legislation prohibiting discriminating against gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender people.
The NCAA said then that host cities must prove they could ensure the “dignity of everyone involved in the event.” The National Basketball Association announced in July it was pulling the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte in response to the anti-LGBT law, which took effect in March.
In July, the Legislature tweaked the LGBT legislation but left it largely intact.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper quickly seized on the NCAA announcement as evidence Republicans lawmakers, including Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the law, were hurting the state.
“These tournaments pump money into our economy and give our communities and fans a chance to showcase our incredible tradition of college sports,” said Cooper, a Democrat running for governor against McCrory. “We need to repeal this law and get our state back on track.”
North Carolina GOP spokeswoman Kami Mueller called the NCAA’s decision “absurd.”
“The NCAA would bode well to stop their political peacocking and care more about the safety and privacy of athletes across the nation, far more than their profit line,” she told CNN-affiliate WNCN.
The NCAA cited the bathroom law and other factors in its decision to keep championships and their corresponding prestige and dollars away from the state. The other factors included:
• North Carolina laws invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.
• North Carolina has the only statewide law that makes it unlawful to use a restroom different from the gender on one’s birth certificate, regardless of gender identity.
• North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community.
• Five states plus numerous cities prohibit travel to North Carolina for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include student-athletes and campus athletics staff. These states are New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut.
In May, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a federal lawsuit against the state officials over the legislation.
While the NCAA will move seven championships, the 2016 ACC football championship is still set to take place in Charlotte.
This is not the first time the NCAA has taken a stance regarding the civil rights climate in a particular state. The NCAA bans championships in states where governments display the Confederate battle flag or at schools that use hostile and abusive Native American imagery.
The affected championships are:
• 2016 Division I Women’s Soccer Championship, College Cup (Cary), December 2 and 4.
• 2016 Division III Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships (Greensboro), December. 2 and 3.
• 2017 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, first/second rounds (Greensboro), March 17 and 19.
• 2017 Division I Women’s Golf Championships, regional (Greenville), May 8-10.
• 2017 Division III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships (Cary), May 22-27.
• 2017 Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship (Cary), May 26 and 28.
• 2017 Division II Baseball Championship (Cary), May 27-June 3.
New locations for the championships will be determined soon, Emmert said.