North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Stance Forces NBA to Move All-Star Game

Moses Frenck

The NBA on Thursday announced it is moving its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, due to the league’s objections to the state’s anti-LGBT stance.

The move could cost the city and state a reported $100 million in lost revenue, and that is on top of considerable revenue lost in recent months from other high-profile events cancelled as a result of the state’s oppressive LGBT position.

North Carolina NBAA law passed in March, known as House Bill 2, or HB2, placed limits on anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the state and made North Carolina the first U.S. state to forbid transgender people from using public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities.

“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,” the league said in a statement.
Since the law passed, various entertainers, including Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Demi Lovato, Ringo Starr and Cirque du Soleil, have cancelled concerts in the state, and business leaders have warned state lawmakers and the governor about possible business ramifications.

More than 100 leading CEOs and business leaders, including several DiversityInc Top 50 companies, such as Accenture (No. 15), Kellogg Company (No. 30), TD Bank (No. 39) and Hilton Worldwide (No. 42), sent a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly this spring demanding the law be repealed.

IBM (No. 20), one of the state’s largest employers, publicly criticized the law and said it would “continue to follow its global non-discrimination policies in the workplace,” adding that “an inclusive and welcoming environment is the best way to attract talented individuals to our company.”

North Carolina State Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg County, told ESPN that the NBA moving the All-Star Game from Charlotte is a “$100 million hit to the city of Charlotte and the state. A lot of that money would go to schools, health care and roads. We’ve sacrificed all of that for Gov. McCrory’s social agenda. He would rather pander to his base than fix an obvious mistake that has major consequences.”

McCrory appears not to have learned lessons from similar actions in Indiana and Georgia, where the business benefits of diversity won out over discrimination.

Following the NBA’s announcement, McCrory issued a statement saying “the sports and entertainment elite,” among others, “misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present,” adding that, “American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”

In 2015, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, now the Republican vice presidential nominee, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allowed businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals, despite fierce opposition by business leaders.

Following that action, CEOs from DiversityInc Top 50 companies Cummins (No. 19), Anthem(No. 25) and Eli Lilly and Company (No. 26) — three of Indiana’s largest corporations — among others, successfully forced lawmakers to include language in the legislation barring any discrimination against LGBT individuals.

And in Georgia in March 2016, Gov. Nathan Deal announced his plan to veto a proposed “anti-LGBT” bill he had intended to sign, following pressure from various U.S. corporations, including Marriott International (No. 9), IBM, Time Warner (No. 37) and The Walt Disney Company (No. 38), which threatened to take their business elsewhere.

In 2014, corporate America helped lead the fight against LGBT discrimination in Arizona, successfully convincing Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a similar law.

(Originally published in DiversityInc July 22, 2016.)