NCAA Falls for Fake HB2 Repeal, Brings Championship Games Back to North Carolina

The NCAA chose basketball over equality in North Carolina.

Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced that its Board of Governors was satisfied with North Carolina’s “repeal” of HB2 and would bring championship games back to the state. The NCAA withdrew these games from North Carolina after the legislature passed HB2, primarily because the law barred many trans people from using government bathrooms—including those at public universities. Although the Board of Governors views the repeal as “far from perfect,” it decided that the new law “minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment.”

“If we find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met,” the NCAA added, “we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time.”

The NCAA’s response to North Carolina’s pseudo-repeal of HB2 is so disingenuous that it calls into question the organization’s actual commitment to LGBTQ rights in the first place. Simply put, the “compromise” legislation, HB 142, is not a real repeal bill. It consists of four sections: The first ostensibly rescinds HB2—and the next three reinstate it. As I explained when the bill was proposed, before it was rushed through the legislature:

The bill forbids “state agencies, boards, offices, departments, institutions,” and “branches of government,” including public universities, from regulating “access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities.” It applies this same rule to “local boards of education,” meaning these boards cannot pass trans-inclusive policies. Instead, local governments, public universities, and school boards would have to wait for permission from the General Assembly to protect trans people. Of course, the heavily gerrymandered, vehemently anti-trans, Republican-dominated legislature will almost certainly never grant this permission.

That’s not the end of it. HB 142 would also impose a years-long moratorium on local LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances. The bill would bar any city from “regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodations” until December 1, 2020. There is nothing to stop the General Assembly from extending this moratorium as its expiration date draws closer.

Indeed, less than a week after passing HB 142, legislative Republicans are already starting to break their promises. Earlier compromise bills included provisions that would stiffen penalties for individuals who “trespassed” in “the bathroom of the opposite sex.” Because this rule could be applied to trans people whose gender the state refuses to recognize, Democrats insisted on stripping it from the final compromise. But Republicans promptly proposed it as standalone legislation after HB 142 passed. They will not be thwarted in their effort to criminalize trans bodies.

Although the passage of HB 142 is a disaster for LGBTQ people in North Carolina, it is quite clarifying for the rest of us. We learned that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who negotiated and signed the bill, cares much more about basketball and optics than LGBTQ rights, despite campaigning as a stalwart defender of trans North Carolinians. We learned that the NCAA was desperate for a face-saving compromise over actual justice—and isn’t much bothered that its athletes, coaches, and fans could continue to suffer persecution at North Carolina tournaments. And finally, we learned that the corporations, associations, and politicians who squabbled over HB2 for a year were vastly more concerned about money, good publicity, and reelection than safeguarding the equal dignity of our trans brothers and sisters.