NBA Pulls All-Star Game From North Carolina 'to Effect Positive Change'

by | July 22, 2016

By Katherine Peralta and Rick Bonnell

The NBA announced late Thursday afternoon that it is moving the 2017 All-Star Weekend out of Charlotte, in reaction to concerns with the North Carolina law known as House Bill 2.

The NBA statement indicated the league is hopeful of awarding the 2019 All-Star Weekend to Charlotte. The NBA has not yet decided which city gets the 2017 All-Star Game. The statement indicated that decision would come in the next few weeks.

"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 NBA's statement read.

"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 All-Star Weekend would have been the largest event in Charlotte since the Democratic National Convention in 2012. Tourism experts estimated the event could have had as much as $100 million in economic impact in the Charlotte region, with tens of thousands of out-of-town visitors filling hotel rooms and restaurants.

"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," the NBA's statement read.

"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 NBA announced its decision to award Charlotte the 2017 All-Star Weekend at a June 2015 news conference at Time Warner Cable Arena. NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Hornets owner Michael Jordan and N.C. Governor Pat McCrory all appeared at that announcement.

The following March McCrory signed into law the HB2 legislation. The NBA immediately expressed concern with what it perceives as discriminatory aspects of that law.

Silver and the Hornets began lobbying behind the scenes to change, if not repeal, HB2. The options to accomplish that dwindled when the General Assembly adjourned recently. While the legislature changed one aspect of the law, regarding the right to sue on discriminatory issues in state court, that wasn't sufficient for the NBA.

McCrory earlier this week signed limited changes to HB2, restoring the right to sue for discrimination in state court. Still intact is a provision that requires people in public schools and government facilities to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificates.

Silver said at the conclusion of an owners meeting last week in Las Vegas that he was "disappointed" that state legislators didn't take additional steps toward modifying the legislation before adjourning.

"This is a very difficult issue for us, and we're trying to be extremely cautious and deliberate in how we go about making the decision," Silver said in Las Vegas.

HB2 mandates that transgender individuals must use the bathrooms in government buildings that correspond to the gender identity on their birth certificates. It was in reaction to a Charlotte city ordinance that allowed transgender individuals to choose the public restroom corresponding to their current gender identity.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice asked a federal judge to suspend HB2 pending the outcome of a trial. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder could order a hearing on the case by the end of August, if not sooner.

Several major corporations, including Google, Reddit and PayPal, recently sent the NBA a letter urging Silver to move the All-Star Weekend out of Charlotte.

"If the NBA holds events in North Carolina while HB2 remains law, players, employees, and fans will be at risk of discrimination -- and that's wrong. It will also send a terrible message about who the NBA is and what it values as an organization, and set a dangerous precedent," the letter reads.

This would be the first time Charlotte hosted All-Star Weekend since 1991, the only time the event previously was here. It's scheduled to be held Feb. 17 at Time Warner Cable Arena.

(c)2016 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)