When the NBA threatened to remove the All-Star Game from Charlotte if North Carolina did not repeal its discriminatory HB2 law, it appeared to be a crucial catalyst to reverse the discrimination against the transgender community. But when that momentum hit an immovable road block, the NBA called the legislature's bluff.
The HB2 law, which requires individuals to use public facility bathrooms of their birth sex, rather than their gender identity. Conversely, Massachusetts enacted a law guaranteeing freedom to use the bathroom reflecting one's gender identity last week. The HB2 law was legislated by the North Carolina congress in order to overrule the city of Charlotte's ordinance that provided anti-discrimination protections to transgender people.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported Thursday that the NBA will move the All-Star weekend event out of Charlotte, which has now been confirmed. The Celtics stood by the decision in a statement to CLNS.
Celtics on NBA pulling All-Star Game from NC: "We support the NBA's decision and share the league's values of equality and inclusion." (1/2)— Jared Weiss (@CLNS_JaredWeiss) July 22, 2016
"We hope that productive dialogue continues in the effort to welcome all who love our game." (2/2) https://t.co/fsFxu2yMaV— Jared Weiss (@CLNS_JaredWeiss) July 22, 2016
This is not the first time the Celtics organization has been involved with progress in the LGBTQ community. Jason Collins wore the number 98 with the Celtics in honor of the late Matthew Sheppard, whose murder in 1998 became a landmark moment in illuminating the severity of homophobia and LGBTQ discrimination across the country. Collins came out publicly after his season with the Celtics to wide support, although a minority of criticism and disapproval emanated from people like Mark Jackson and Larry Johnson.
"As a member of the NBA family and as a gay man, I'm extremely proud to see the NBA take initiative and move the All Star Game from North Carolina," Collins said on Twitter Thursday. "Their decision is an extremely poignant one and shows that discrimination of any kind is not welcome in sports and is not acceptable in any part of our society. The NBA has set the best kind of example and precedent moving forward for all to follow."
Although major basketball figures have spoken out against the law, some of the league's biggest stars expressed concern over pulling the All-Star game from Charlotte. The reaction has, much like when Collins came out, been mixed.
I recognize this was a tough decision for the NBA but I respect the choice. Discrimination of any kind cannot be allowed— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 22, 2016
"It's a big decision for the NBA to pull it away from Charlotte. I guess we'll see what happens from here now ... I feel bad for (Michael Jordan) and for the NBA, too. We as players didn't think it was going to get to this. It's unfortunate." -Carmelo Anthony
"It's an embarrassing bill," Duke and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told USA TODAY Sports a day before the NBA's announcement. "That's all I'm going to say about it."
Steph Curry expressed concern over the action, stating, "I know how much that would have meant to the city. At the end of the day, I love Charlotte."
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory released a strong statement in response to the NBA's decision, condemning the NBA and the other powers that be for portraying what he claims is a false analysis of the effect of HB2.
"The selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process. The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present. Twenty-one other states have joined North Carolina to challenge the federal overreach by the Obama administration mandating their bathroom policies in all businesses and schools instead of allowing accommodations for unique circumstances. Left-wing special interest groups have no moral authority to try and intimidate the large majority of American parents who agree in common-sense bathroom and shower privacy for our children."
The league issued a joint statement with the Charlotte Hornets earlier in July stating it did not endorse the draft amendments to HB2 that were in the legislature, which among other items would address the conflict of transgender people who are from states that do not allow birth certificates to be altered.
The Hornets released a statement in response to the NBA's decision, which did not explicitly state the Hornets' desire to change the law. The statement did however note an "exhaustive effort from all parties to keep the event in Charlotte."
The NBA joins a list of major corporate powers to pull their business from North Carolina in response to the bill. In April, Bruce Springsteen cancelled his show in Greensboro in protest of the bill. 90 major business leaders signed a letter to Governor McCrory in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC condemning the law as unjust discrimination. Bank of America, the most prominent company in North Carolina, additionally came out in support of repealing HB2.
The Obama administration is suing the state on the grounds of unconstitutional discrimination, while the administration is being countersued for its guidance on transgender bathroom protections in public schools as mentioned in the Governor's statement.
The NBA's decision will tighten the screws on the Governor and conservative leadership in the state legislature. All-Star weekend is a significant economic showcase for its host city and its absence will have significant consequences for the state's ability to attract external investment and new job production. While the NBA's caveat that Charlotte will be reconsidered in 2019 for hosting duties could damper the effectiveness of this move, the NBA's conviction in its role as a leader in social progress is standing the test of time.