CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The NCAA says it will consider North Carolina as a host for championship events again after the state rolled back a law that limited protections for LGBT people.
In a statement Tuesday, the governing body said its Board of Governors had reviewed moves to repeal repealed the so-called "bathroom bill" and replace it with a compromise law. The NCAA said the new law "meets the minimal NCAA requirements" while expressing some concerns about provisions within it.
The statement says a majority of the board "reluctantly voted" to allow for consideration of bids from North Carolina during current deliberations for sites running through 2022. Events for the 2017-18 season that have already been awarded to the state — such as opening-weekend men's basketball tournament games in Charlotte — will remain in place.
"We are actively determining site selections, and this new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment," the board's statement reads. "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."
The NCAA pulled seven events from the state in September for the 2016-17 season, including men's basketball tournament games from Greensboro in March, in response to the law. That ban didn't impact teams which earn homecourt advantage during the course of the season, such as the Duke women's team hosting NCAA tourney games earlier in March.
The NCAA had made it clear that more events already awarded to the state could be relocated, while also saying it would remove North Carolina bids from consideration as it prepared to announce is next wave of site announcements.
But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a compromise bill Thursday to repeal elements of the law after passage by the state legislature earlier in the day. That came days after the NCAA had issued a statement that the state was down to its final days to get something done.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the NCAA gave in too easily.
He argued the moratorium on cities doesn't do enough to protect human rights.
"Today in North Carolina, no city or county can pass vital, fundamental, civil rights, non-discrimination protections,” Griffin said. “There is now a statewide ban on equality in North Carolina."
The Atlantic Coast Conference had followed the NCAA's lead last fall, pulling 10 neutral-site events out of the state — including moving the football championship game from Charlotte to Orlando.
But the ACC said Friday its Council of Presidents had voted to again consider North Carolina sites to host events. And that also ensured events already set for the state for the 2017-18 season would remain in place, meaning the football title game would return in December to Charlotte since it was contractually set to run there through 2019.
Speaking during his annual Final Four news conference Thursday, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the governing body would review the changes in hopes of reaching a quick decision by early this week.
"I'm personally very pleased that they have a bill to debate and discuss," Emmert said then. "The politics of this in North Carolina are obviously very, very difficult. But they have passed a bill now and it'll be a great opportunity for our board to sit and debate and discuss it."
Below is the NCAA Board of Governors’ position on the repeal:
In August of 2016, the NCAA Board of Governors instructed the relocation of NCAA championships scheduled in North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year because of the cumulative impact HB2 had on local communities’ ability to ensure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for all those watching and participating in our events.
Last week, the elected officials of North Carolina enacted compromise legislation that repealed HB2 and replaced it with a new law, HB142, that addressed a number of the concerns that led to the relocation of the NCAA championships. As with most compromises, this new law is far from perfect.
The NCAA did not lobby for any specific change in the law. The Board of Governors, however, was hopeful that the state would fully repeal HB2 in order to allow the host communities to ensure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for the championship sites. While the new law meets the minimal NCAA requirements, the board remains concerned that some may perceive North Carolina’s moratorium against affording opportunities for communities to extend basic civil rights as a signal that discriminatory behavior is permitted and acceptable, which is inconsistent with the NCAA Bylaws.
However, we recognize the quality championships hosted by the people of North Carolina in years before HB2. And this new law restores the state to that legal landscape: a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.
We are actively determining site selections, and this new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment. 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. Further, outside of bathroom facilities, the new law allows our campuses to maintain their own policies against discrimination, including protecting LGBTQ rights, and allows cities’ existing nondiscrimination ordinances, including LBGTQ protections, to remain effective.
In the end, a majority on the NCAA Board of Governors reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina by our committees that are presently meeting. The NCAA championships previously awarded to North Carolina for 2017-18 will remain in the state. The board, however, directs that any site awarded a championship event in North Carolina or elsewhere be required to submit additional documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.
Below is a joint statement from Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore:
“We are pleased with the NCAA’s decision and acknowledgment that our compromise legislation ‘restores the state to… a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.'"
Below is a statement from Gov. Roy Cooper:
"Last week’s compromise was an important step forward for our state. While more work remains to be done, it’s good news that the NCAA will be returning to North Carolina. We will continue our work with them to fight for statewide antidiscrimination protections for LGBT North Carolinians."
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