North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT HB2 Law Is Driving Away The NCAA

Turns out passing discriminatory legislation is a bad idea

A good bathroom sign — Getty Images
Feb 07, 2017 at 3:22 PM ET

Since North Carolina passed House Bill 2, the so-called “Bathroom Bill,” in February 2016, multiple major sports events have fled the state in response, recoiling at the rollback of discrimination protections for LGBT people. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts even went so far as to call it “Literally the most anti-LGBT legislation in the country.”

The NBA acted first, moving the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans, though Commissioner Adam Silver said he was willing to budge in the future should the law  be repealed. In September, the NCAA moved seven previously scheduled championship events out of North Carolina, and the Atlantic Coast Conference followed suit a day later.

Now, HB2 may end up costing North Carolina some serious dollars, according to Scott Dupree, the executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance and a member of the North Carolina Sports Association, two non-profit trade organizations that promote sporting events in the state.

In a letter directed to the North Carolina House of Representatives and General Assembly that was made public on Monday, Dupree wrote, “North Carolina is on the brink of losing all NCAA Championship events for six consecutive years, through the spring of 2022. This includes the NCAA Basketball Tournament (March Madness) in cities like Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte.”

At stake are, according to Dupree,133 proposed events that may (or may not) be held in-state between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons. What’s more the clock is ticking on any possible repeal. Dupree writes that unnamed “contacts at the NCAA” have informed either he or one of the organizations he represents that the NCAA will be accepting bids for multiple championship events across all sports in the next seven to 10 days, and if HB2 is still on the books, there’s no going back.

“In a matter of days, our state’s sports tourism industry will suffer crushing, long-term losses and will essentially close its doors to NCAA business,” he writes. “Our window to act is closing rapidly.”

By Dupree’s calculations, should other sports organizations at both the professional and amateur level follow the NCAA’s lead, it would result in the loss of “upwards of a half-billion dollars in economic impact,” and “once they go away, there is no guarantee when, or if, they will return.”

Dupree is correct that the venues in question and surrounding businesses would see a decreased income without the NCAA Tournament and all the other neutral-site events. But “economic impact” reports don’t hold up to any serious scrutiny. Every impartial economist worth his or her salt has concluded that the dollars accrued at major sports events, even when accounting for the influx of tourists, end up falling far short of the estimated “impact.”

In response to questions from the Huffington Post, an NCAA spokesperson said, “The NCAA has not yet determined future championship sites. The NCAA expects to announce site selections for the 2018-19 through 2021-22 championship seasons in April.” But at some point, the NCAA altered the information available on its website, now listing 2017-18 events previously scheduled to take place in Charlotte as “TBD.”

Newly-elected North Carolina Governor Pat Cooper has been pushing a repeal, urging bipartisan cooperation, to “get this stain off our state, a chance to end discrimination and a chance to bring these hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs back to our state.” According to the Charlotte News-Observer, Republican State Senators are blocking a repeal vote from even being brought to the floor, which partially explains Dupree’s public appeal, dodgy financial projections notwithstanding.

Dupree’s letter can be read in its entirety here.