The National Basketball Association on Thursday pulled the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, over the state’s “bathroom bill,” a law requiring that intimate public facilities be segregated on the basis of biological sex, not gender self-identification.
The league said in a statement that holding the marquee midseason match-up in Charlotte is impossible given the “climate” created by state law HB2.
“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 NBA said it is possible the All-Star Game could return to Charlotte in 2019, “provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had previously threatened to pull the All-Star Game if HB2 was not repealed. The league said the law discriminates against transgender people who wish to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their preferred gender, which is to say of the opposite sex.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, said the NBA’s decision is another example of the “sports and entertainment elite … malign[ing] 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.”
“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,” Mr. McCrory said in a statement.
Gay-rights groups praised the NBA’s decision. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said the league sent a “clear message that they won’t stand for discrimination against LGBTQ employees, players or fans.”
“From the beginning, NBA leadership has been clear that HB2 creates an untenable situation and jeopardizes the safety and comfort of their fans,” Mr. Griffin said in a press release.
The Charlotte Hornets and team Chairman Michael Jordan released a statement expressing disappointment in the decision, but acknowledging “the challenges around holding the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte this season.”
“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,” the team said.
At the Republican National Convention, delegates from the Tarheel State didn’t shed any tears over the news.
“Let ‘em take it,” said Jeff Lominac, a delegate who lives about 40 miles north of Charlotte.
He said the law reflected the will of the people, and he praised Mr. McCrory for refusing to knuckle under.
“I think the whole law is common sense,” he said.
“Do we really care? Not really,” said James Hardesty, a guest from Raleigh. “The economic impact of sporting events is grossly overrated.”
HB2 was passed in response to a Charlotte city ordinance requiring both public and private facilities to be segregated on the basis of gender identity.
The state law also bars cities from expanding nondiscrimination policies to include sexuality and gender identity, which have been interpreted to require intimate facilities to be regulated on the basis of gender identity.
Proponents of the legislation say it is aimed at protecting women and children from voyeurs claiming to identify as the opposite sex.
The NBA is one of many corporations, many based in Silicon Valley, to condemn HB2, saying it imperils their ability to do business in the state. A petition signed by more than 100 companies, including Facebook, Google and Apple, called on North Carolina to repeal the law.
In the wake of the backlash, Mr. McCrory took executive action to allow private businesses to regulate intimate facilities however they choose, but refused to repeal the substance of the law.
When the Obama administration’s Department of Justice threatened to withhold education funding from the state over HB2, North Carolina responded by suing the federal agency.
The clash in North Carolina comes amid a larger debate about how to accommodate those who do not identify as their biological sex.
President Obama issued an edict in May warning public schools nationwide to allow use of bathrooms, locker rooms and showers on the basis of gender identity. Noncompliant schools risk losing millions in federal education funding.
Twenty-three states, including North Carolina, have sued the Obama administration in two separate cases over the order, arguing it misinterprets Title IX’s provision against discrimination on the basis of “sex” and unconstitutionally infringes on state sovereignty.
⦁ Todd Dybas contributed to this report.