The NBA today pulled its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, NC, in the wake of the state’s passage of a law that discriminates against the LGBT community. The league said it hopes to stage the 2019 event in the city.
“Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change,” the league said (read the full statement below). “We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.”
The league said it will announce a new site for next year’s All-Star Game in the coming weeks. There is sure to be interest from many of its franchises, as the game — and its many associated events — is a major municipal revenue source. The 2018 All-Star game already is set for Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The move is something of a pivot for the league, which had said in April that the All-Star Game would stay in Charlotte. “The current state of the law is problematic for the league, but we’re not making any announcements now,” Commissioner Adam Silver said then, after the NBA’s board of governors meetings. “We can be most constructive by working with elected officials to effect change.”
That apparently didn’t happen.
On March 23, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill into law that prevents employers and businesses from discriminating based on race, color, religion, age and “biological sex” but would allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. It also overturned an ordinance that was to go into effect in April in Charlotte that would have barred such practices and would have given those who identify as transgender the right to use public restrooms corresponding to their sexual identity.
Widely criticized as anti-LGBT, the legislation has similar language as a Georgia bill that drew the ire of Hollywood and media companies for being discriminatory.
Turner Sports, which airs a slew of NBA games, issued a statement supporting the league’s decision. “At Turner, and our parent company Time Warner, diversity in all its forms is core to our value system and to the success of our company,” it said. “Laws to the contrary go against our fundamental belief of equality and inclusion for all individuals. We fully support the NBA’s decision to relocate the 2017 All-Star Game and all of the weekend’s events originally scheduled to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina.”
Casey Wasserman, whose Wasserman agency reps dozens of NBA players, also supported the league’s move. “Today the NBA showed the world that in sport and in practice we will not stand for inequality and discrimination,” he said. “The All-Star Game represents everything we as a nation love about basketball on and off the court — diversity, sportsmanship and most of all a commitment to unite fans. With this decision today, the NBA protected that unity and demonstrated true leadership.”
Here is the league’s full statement:
“The NBA has decided to relocate the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte with the hope of rescheduling for 2019.
“Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change. We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.
“Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community — current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans. While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.
“We are particularly mindful of the impact of this decision on our fans in North Carolina, who are among the most passionate in our league. It is also important to stress that the City of Charlotte and the Hornets organization have sought to provide an inclusive environment and that the Hornets will continue to ensure that all patrons — including members of the LGBT community — feel welcome while attending games and events in their arena.
“We look forward to re-starting plans for our All-Star festivities in Charlotte for 2019 provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.
“The NBA will make an announcement on the new location of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in the coming weeks.”