NBA: Charlotte eligible to host 2019 All-Star Game

Brian Mahoney and Emery P. Dalesio | The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Charlotte will be eligible to host the 2019 All-Star Game after a compromise deal to replace a North Carolina law that limited anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday.

“It’s not a done deal yet,” Silver said. “The most recent change in the law does not mean the fundamental issues are resolved. But after considering all points of view, we determined that Charlotte will be eligible to host” the game.

The league’s Board of Governors discussed it during their meetings this week and made what Silver said was “not an easy decision.” The league will develop an anti-discrimination policy that participating groups including the host sites, hotels and businesses would have to abide by before the 2019 game is committed to Charlotte again. But Silver said it is his “expectation” that Charlotte would get the game if those assurances were met within the next month or so.

“We believe that an All-Star Game in Charlotte could be a powerful way to display our values of equality and inclusion,” Silver said, adding that engaging more deeply in North Carolina is part of a national effort toward securing LGBT equality. “Ultimately I believe changing attitudes and not just laws is what will lead to that result.”

North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders said they would be OK with whatever hosting agreement the NBA strikes with Charlotte businesses. That “shares our long-held belief that private businesses, including potential host venues, have every right to expand on federal non-discrimination policies however they wish,” Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said in a joint statement.

Silver had said last fall that returning the game to Charlotte in 2019 was “a high priority,” provided there was a resolution to the conflicts over the North Carolina law known as House Bill 2. Los Angeles hosts the game in 2018.

Charlotte was scheduled to host the game this year, but the NBA pulled it over its objection to the law also commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill.” The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority estimated the yanked event would have generated about $100 million in economic impact. That was part of more than $3.76 billion over a dozen years in lost business as a consequence of HB2, an Associated Press analysis found.

Gay-rights advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union have denounced North Carolina legislation passed last week to undo HB2 as inadequate.

The mayors of New York, Washington, San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City and other cities announced this week that previous municipal bans on taxpayer-funded travel to North Carolina will stay in place because discrimination persists in the replacement law.

The measure left some LGBT restrictions in place, including a moratorium until December 2020 on local governments passing broad nondiscrimination ordinances covering sexual orientation and gender identity. While the new law ended the HB2 provision requiring transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to their birth certificates, state lawmakers remain in charge of future bathroom policies.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has said it was the best compromise that the Republican-controlled legislature would approve. The deal was done ahead of a deadline by the NCAA, which removed championship events from basketball-crazy North Carolina for the current academic year and threatened to exclude the state from hosting any new ones through 2022.

On Tuesday, the collegiate athletic association expressed concerns about the new law’s provisions but said it “meets the minimal NCAA requirements” to keep North Carolina in consideration as a host for championship events.

The replacement law is an “important step forward in protecting people from discrimination and bringing jobs and sports back to North Carolina and helping to repair our reputation,” Cooper said last week.

Silver made a similar point Friday.

“I’m proud of the league’s stance on opposing HB2 and announcing that we were not going to play the All-Star Game under those circumstances. And I’m also proud that we’re going back,” he said. “I think we can be a force for change. As I said, I understand that there is a segment of our fan base that believes that the change from HB2 to the new law is not enough, but it is change. It’s incremental change. We were part of the movement, pushing for that change. It’s not everything we could have hoped for, but we’re prepared to go back.”