RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina could lose out on NCAA championship events for another five years if the state soon doesn’t take off the books a law limiting LGBT rights, a spokesman for a statewide sports development association said Monday.
The North Carolina Sports Association, in a letter to the legislature, urged lawmakers to address House Bill 2 or “our state’s sports tourism industry will suffer crushing, long-term losses and will essentially close its doors to NCAA business.”
“Our window to act is closing rapidly,” Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, wrote on behalf of the association, which covers 27 counties in the state.
The letter is designed to revive quickly negotiations among Republican legislators who approved the bill last March and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who wants the law fully repealed. A proposed repeal deal failed in December at the legislature.
The NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference last September relocated 17 events this academic year because of HB2, including the opening weekend men’s basketball tournament games scheduled for Greensboro and the ACC football title game planned for Charlotte.
Dupree wrote NCAA officials are expected to pull the next academic year’s events already scheduled for North Carolina and have started the bid review process for the 2018-19 year through 2021-22.
There are more than 130 such bids offered by North Carolina cities, schools and other partners, but they will be removed from consideration by NCAA officials due to the NCAA’s stance on HB2, Dupree wrote.
“At that point, we will be faced with a six-year drought of NCAA championships in North Carolina,” he wrote, adding the process will begin in seven to 10 days and continue through February.
The law passed last March led to nationwide criticism by gay rights groups and corporate CEOs, causing some businesses to halt expansions and musicians to cancel concerts in North Carolina. NCAA President Mark Emmert had delayed decisions on its future championship sites until early this year, as the organization reviewed responses from prospective site hosts on how they would comply with its anti-discrimination rules.
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, blames Cooper for directing Senate Democrats in December to vote against a repeal law that if approved would have included a short moratorium on local LGBT ordinances. Berger is now framing any HB2 fix to address bathroom access. The original law requires transgender people to use the public bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate.
Cooper “is going to have to work toward a compromise that keeps women from being forced to share bathrooms and shower facilities with men to move past this distraction,” Berger said in a release.
But Cooper has said the moratorium provision broke the repeal agreement made with GOP leaders. He said a majority of House and Senate members would vote for a stand-alone repeal bill if Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, would allow such a question on their chamber floors. The state Democratic Party, Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC asked for similar votes in releases Monday.
“The NCAA news means there is no time to waste in repealing House Bill 2,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said in an email.
North Carolina can’t lose the prestige and the economic benefits that these sports championships bring, said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, who supports a full repeal. “It would be tragic if we were to lose these tournaments for the next five years,” he said Monday.
Associated Press sports writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.
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