Cowardly NCAA Ends Boycott Of North Carolina Over Anti-Trans Law

HB2 will live on in a different form, but the NCAA seems just fine with that

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Apr 04, 2017 at 1:31 PM ET

The NCAA equivalent of the Friday afternoon news dump is the morning after the finals of March Madness, which starts absurdly late for the unpaid laborers involved, not to mention anyone tuning to watch. So Tuesday morning is a sleepy one in the world of collegiate athletics, and nowhere more so than North Carolina, whose Tar Heels held off Gonzaga to win their sixth national title in a plodding, foul-ridden game.

The circumstances provided some cover for the NCAA to announce an end to its boycott of North Carolina over its transphobic bathroom law, HB2. Last week, the state announced what literally amounts to a repeal of HB2 but, in spirit, is just a replacement—the new ordinance, HB142, prevents cities, towns, and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination laws in setting up safe accommodations for targeted groups such as transgender people.

The NCAA’s Board of Governors even recognized that issue and then willfully ignored the ramifications of this new law. Its statement tries to placate the LGBTQ community and the decent folks who support their rights by inserting a few qualifiers into their statement, calling the new law “far from perfect;” noting that the board “remains concerned” that the legislation is “a signal that discriminatory behavior is permitted and acceptable, which is inconsistent with the NCAA Bylaws;” insisting that “we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time;” claiming the board “reluctantly” voted to re-consider North Carolina as a championship site; and demanding “additional documentation” of anti-discrimination practices.

Well, all the reluctance, concerns, bylaws, and documentation in the world won’t replace meaningful action. The NCAA boycott was costing the state “hundreds of millions,” by the Associated Press’s estimation, and forcing real conversation about protecting the right of transgender people to have access to basic necessities. Saying you begrudgingly give the state a revenue-driving event is still giving them that revenue-driving event. (Many writers consider adverbs to be a useless atrocity anyway.)

One congressman, Democrat Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, offered a prominent dissenting voice to the discussion because, yes, he’s from that Kennedy family and because he, you know, has actual reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. Kennedy is a longtime LGBTQ advocate who was roommates at Stanford with Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player. He wrote a forceful letter to no avail, calling HB142 “another assault on LGBTQ rights” and reminding the NCAA of its recent call to ensure a “safe, healthy, discrimination free atmosphere” in North Carolina (and everywhere). One of the NCAA’s seven core values is “an inclusive culture.”

If the NCAA is serious about that value, the decision is binary: Granting North Carolina major events is akin to condoning discrimination no matter how many adverbial qualifiers it offers.