The backlash to North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT legislation, which has already seen the state lose tens of millions of dollars, hundreds of jobs, and even a Bruce Springsteen concert, turned up a notch today when the NBA hinted that it will move the 2017 All-Star Game, which is scheduled to take place in Charlotte, if the laws do not change. In a press conference today NBA commissioner Adam Silver said “Let me be clear: The current state of the law is problematic for the NBA in North Carolina. The discussion [with team owners] was how can we be most constructive in being a part of the process that results in the kind of change that we think is necessary.”
The law to which Silver is referring, which has caused a nationwide uproar, was passed last month by the Republican state legislature in response to a local anti-discrimination ordinance passed by the City of Charlotte that, among other things, guaranteed transgender people the right to use the bathroom of their choice. This provision caused mass hysteria – none of it justified – on the right and led to the passing of a restrictive state law that not only mandated transgender people to use the bathroom of their biological sex but also banned all North Carolina municipalities from enacting or enforcing antidiscrimination legislation. This means that the entire state is now governed by the extremely regressive state law that grants little to no protections to people on the basis of gender or sexual identity, essentially legalising anti-LGBT discrimination.
According to the Washington Post, Silver has made it clear off the record that if the restrictive laws in North Carolina are not changed, the All-Star Game will have to moved. Several prominent personalities in the NBA have called for the game to be moved, among them Hall of Famer and commentator Charles Barkley, who has made a powerful stand for the rights of the oppressed in saying that “As a black person, I’m against any form of discrimination—against whites, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, however you want to phrase it. It’s my job… to stand up for the people who can’t stand up for themselves. So, I think the NBA should move the All-Star Game from Charlotte.”
Losing the All-Star Game, which is scheduled to take place on Feb. 19, 2017, would be a significant setback for North Carolina, as the game and its related festivities typically generate close to $200 million in economic activity. The NBA is hoping to use its influence to overturn the new law and North Carolina, and there have already been signs that the mounting pressure may force the state to back-peddle, as when Republican governor Pat McCrory appeared to backpedal on the issue last week.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.