CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The city of Charlotte is losing the 2017 NBA All-Star Game over controversy stemming from North Carolina's House Bill 2, officials stated Thursday.
"The NBA has decided to relocate the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte with the hope of rescheduling for 2019," a statement from the league read.
"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 statement continued. "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."
"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. 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 statement read.
The league said they hope to work out a deal for Charlotte to host the All-Star Game in 2019.
The future of the 2017 game had been called into question since the passage of House Bill 2 earlier this year.
HB2 requires individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate in government buildings, schools and universities, and took away the ability of employees to sue their employers in state court for discrimination or wrongful termination, among other things.
The bill was passed in a one-day special session in late March and was signed by Governor Pat McCrory later that night.
It came as a response to a non-discrimination ordinance passed in February by the Charlotte City Council. The ordinance broadly defined how businesses should treat gay, lesbian and transgender customers.
The debate, as in other cities, focused on bathrooms.
After its passage, several high ranking North Carolina Republicans, including Governor McCrory, voiced concerns about people having the ability to choose public restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.
The day after House Bill 2 was signed, the National Basketball Association (NBA) speculated that the bill might affect the Queen City hosting the game.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said she was disappointed that the game was moved.
"I am deeply disappointed that the discriminatory actions reflected in HB2 have caused the NBA to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte. All-Star weekend would have provided an excellent opportunity to further showcase our great and welcoming city," the mayor said. "Charlotte has shown its commitment to equal rights and inclusion and will continue to promote those values."
Mayor Roberts did, however, thank the NBA for being "champions of equality."
Democratic senator Jeff Jackson said he worries about the lost revenue that comes with the All-Star Game's removal.
"It was a $100 million for the city. A lot of that was going to come in the form of tax revenue, sales taxes, income taxes we'd be able to use for schools, for healthcare, for roads, and now all that money goes somewhere else," said Jackson.
NC Governor Pat McCrory released a statement on the move just after 6 p.m.
"The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned 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," Governor McCrory wrote. "Twenty-one other states have joined North Carolina to challenge the federal overreach by the Obama administration mandating their bathroom policies in all businesses and schools instead of allowing accommodations for unique circumstances. Left-wing special interest groups have no moral authority to try and intimidate the large majority of American parents who agree in common-sense bathroom and shower privacy for our children. 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."
NBA officials said they will make an announcement on the new location of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game "in the coming weeks."
Reports indicate that New Orleans will be the likely replacement. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the city would be "excited" if they were called on to host the game.
"The NBA has been a great partner, so we would be excited to host the 2017 All Star Game if called upon," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. "New Orleans is a diverse, open and inviting city, and we pride ourselves on our ability to host major sports entertainment events."
The Charlotte Hornets released a statement minutes after the NBA confirmed the move.
"We understand the NBA's decision and the challenges around holding the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte this season. There was an exhaustive effort from all parties to keep the event in Charlotte, and we are disappointed we were unable to do so," Hornets officials wrote. "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. We want to thank the City of Charlotte and the business community for their backing throughout this entire process, starting with the initial bid. We are confident that they will be just as supportive and enthusiastic for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game."
Last month, On Your Side Investigates obtained legislation drafted by leadership in the North Carolina House of Representatives which sought to walk back portions of House Bill 2.
The draft legislation is the result of months of conversations between leadership in the state legislature, including the Speaker's office, and officials from the NBA, On Your Side Investigates learned.
A person with knowledge of the league's plans, who asked not to be identified to discuss details of the ongoing discussion surround the 2017 All Star Game's future in Charlotte, said passage of the proposed legislation would be a big step in helping the league to make the decision to keep the game in Charlotte.
The discussions have also included executives with the Charlotte Hornets, leaders from the City of Charlotte and other legislative leaders, the person said.
"What the league is looking for is for anyone to be able to use, at any All Star venue, the bathroom associated with their gender identity," the person said, adding that that goal extends to all venues used by NBA teams.
The NBA said it did not endorse the draft version of the bill that planned to be proposed. The North Carolina General Assembly failed to pass a bill that would have made a number of changes to HB2 in its last session.
Last week, the NBA owners held their annual off season meeting in Las Vega. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the Board of Governors received updates on the situation with House Bill 2, but did not vote on the issue.
McCrory sat down with WBTV the morning of the NBA owner's meeting in Las Vegas. At the time, he said he didn't know what decision the league would ultimately reach with regards to the 2017 game but said he and other state leaders had taken steps to address the NBA's concerns.
"We had extremely positive dialogue with the NBA during the past month, with Adam directly, and with the speaker and the president in where we discussed, where we agreed and where we disagreed and some possible consensus," McCrory said.
McCrory said proposed legislation that came as a result of talks with the NBA was scuttled because of opposition from some special interest groups and Raleigh politicians who had advocated for full repeal of the law.
The Queen City won the bid to host the All-Star Game in June 2015. One month later, the city formally committed to spending $600,000 in general tax dollars to host the event. The total incentive package for the All-Star Game is about $5.9 million, according to WBTV's news partner The Charlotte Observer.