The NBA just issued an ultimatum for North Carolina.
Unless the state repeals or significantly revises its anti-LGBT “bathroom law,” the league plans to yank next year’s All-Star Game out of Charlotte.
The law, passed in March, requires transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender as listed on their birth certificate, and it revoked several municipal LGBT protection ordinances.
Yahoo News broke the news:
“Without any movement by state legislators in North Carolina to change newly enacted laws targeted at the LGBT community, the NBA is pulling the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, league sources told The Vertical.
The NBA is focused on the New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center as the host for All-Star Weekend and the All-Star Game on Feb. 19.”
And this is a very big deal — not only because of the pressure it puts on North Carolina, but because of how sports reflect our shared values.
American lives and breathes its sports. It’s our weekly drama, our intergenerational glue, and our watercooler conversation. It’s one of the few things that unites us by class, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.
Our sports often decide whether something is largely right or wrong.
When Arizona refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1990, the NFL pulled the Super Bowl out of the state.
“I think it would be an affront to our public and our players if the game was played there,” Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman said at the time.
The message to black Americans was clear: “You’re a part of us. And we’ll stand up for you.”
But progress on LGBT issues within the leagues has been slow. For a long time, the NBA had a spotty record of punishing anti-LGBT abuse on the court.
When Kobe Bryant confronted a referee with an anti-gay slur and refused to apologize, he was fined heavily but not suspended.
When Rajon Rondo hurled the same slur at a gay ref last year, the league suspended him for one game.
However, lots of folks have changed their hearts and minds, which has led the leagues to take baby steps toward inclusion.
Last year, when Indiana passed a law that made it easier for businesses to refuse to serve LGBT customers, activists called on the NCAA to pull the Final Four out of the state. The league issued a statement opposing the law.
Still, they let the tournament go ahead.
By actually taking the All-Star Game away from North Carolina, the NBA is sending a clear message to LGBT Americans.
“You’re part of us. And we’ll stand up for you.”
And that message says something about us, too…
We’re changing. Slowly. But for the better.