The NBA is moving the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte because of its objection to North Carolina House Bill 2, which limits anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people in the state.
In a statement, the league said it hopes to reschedule the game for Charlotte in 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,” the league said. “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.”
The statement said the league will announce an alternate venue for next year’s event in the coming weeks.
The Vertical reported Thursday that New Orleans had emerged as a front-runner to host the game. Several other NBA cities have become options, including Chicago and New York/Brooklyn, sources told ESPN. Louisiana, Illinois and New York all have specific state protections that don’t allow for discriminating against lesbian, gay, and transgender people, with specific legislation passed in the past year.
Los Angeles will host the 2018 All-Star Game.
North Carolina governor Pat McCrory reacted to the NBA’s decision with a statement that said multiple groups had “misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina” for months.
“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,” he said.
Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts said she was “deeply disappointed” the HB2 bill caused the NBA to move February’s game.
“All-Star weekend would have provided an excellent opportunity to further showcase our great and welcoming city,” she said in a statement. “Charlotte has shown its commitment to equal rights and inclusion and will continue to promote those values.”
Stephen Curry, who grew up in Charlotte because his father, Dell, played for the Hornets, told SportsCenter that he was disappointed that the city won’t host the game but understood commissioner Adam Silver’s position.
What really hurts, he said, is “just I know how much that would have meant to the city.”
“We support [the decision],” he added, “but at the end of the day I love Charlotte. I love the city.”
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony also said he feels bad for the city.
“Aside from all the politics, I feel bad for MJ [Hornets chairman Michael Jordan] because I knew what that was going to do for the city of Charlotte,” he told ESPN. “It was definitely going to boost everything. For him being able to bring All-Star Weekend to Charlotte. I feel bad for him and for the NBA, too. We as players didn’t think it was going to get to this. It’s unfortunate.”
The bill, also called The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which was signed into law earlier this year by Gov. McCrory, requires transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. It applies only to bathrooms in government buildings, public schools and public universities. It does not apply to private universities, such as Duke. Private companies are allowed to implement any policy they choose.
A provision of the original bill also excluded gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide anti-discrimination protections. McCrory recently signed legislation that restored the state’s original non-discrimination protections removed by HB2.
Before Team USA practice in Las Vegas on Thursday, and before the NBA announced its decision, Pacers forward Paul George told ESPN: “I’m huge on keeping your word. I’m not necessarily saying it’s bad for the NBA to move it. Charlotte is a growing city and the Hornets have picked that program up. It’s a shame it’s possible that we’d take that away from them.”
Turner Sports, which broadcasts the All-Star Game and the festivities associated with All-Star Weekend, said in a statement it agreed with the NBA’s choice.
“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,” the statement said. “Laws to the contrary go against our fundamental belief of equality and inclusion for all individuals.”
ESPN, which has a broadcast contract with the NBA but will not televise the game, also said it supports the decision.
“ESPN has demonstrated a strong commitment to inclusion,” it said in a statement. “The NBA’s decision is one which we fully support, emphatically illustrating that the league clearly stands for inclusion as well.”
“It’s a big decision for the NBA to pull it away from Charlotte. I guess we’ll see what happens from here now … I feel bad for (Michael Jordan) and for the NBA, too. We as players didn’t think it was going to get to this. It’s unfortunate.”
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony
While the All-Star Game will be moved, the league said in its statement that the Hornets operating in Charlotte is not a problem.
“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.”
The Hornets and Jordan also released a statement.
“We understand the NBA’s decision and the challenges around holding the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte this season,” it read. “There was an exhaustive effort from all parties to keep the event in Charlotte, and we are disappointed we were unable to do so. With that said, we are pleased that the NBA opened the door for Charlotte to host All-Star Weekend again as soon as an opportunity was available in 2019.”
Before the announcement, North Carolina state senator 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. [Pat] McCrory’s social agenda. He would rather pander to his base than fix an obvious mistake that has major consequences.”
Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay athlete in North America’s four recognized major team sports when he played for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets in the 2013-14 season, tweeted his praise for the league.
— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins98) July 21, 2016
Not all leagues are ready to pull games out of North Carolina, however.
Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford told ESPN on Thursday that as of now the league will keep its December football championship in Charlotte. He did say that the conference will revisit the discussion in October.
Other major sporting events in Charlotte next year include the PGA Championship in August 2017 and a Sprint Cup race in May 2017. State senator Joel Ford (D) of Mecklenburg County said he believes the NBA’s decision will have a trickle-down effect.
“I’m anticipating, from a lot of discussions I’ve had with executives and professionals, that the NBA was the tip of the spear,” he said. “If the NBA took the All-Star Game away, (it is) going to put pressure on other professional sports franchises.”
Information from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Brian Windhorst, Andrea Adelson and Andy Katz was used in this report.