CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The heads of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) are speaking out about the National College Association of Athletes (NCAA)'s move to pull all championship events from North Carolina over issues surrounding House Bill 2.
"The decision by the NCAA Board of Governors to relocate all current, and not award any future, NCAA Championship sites in the state of North Carolina continues to build upon the negative impact this bill has already had on the state," Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement.
"HB2 was previously scheduled to be thoroughly discussed at this week's ACC Council of Presidents meeting, so it would be premature to make any decisions or announcements regarding ACC Championships until our membership is able to discuss," Swofford continued. "The league's longstanding commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion will continue to be a central theme to our discussions."
Monday night, the NCAA announced it was relocating seven previously awarded championship events from North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year. The NCAA said it will "determine the new locations for these championships soon."
"The NCAA Board of Governors made this decision because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections," the statement continued. "In its decision Monday, the Board of Governors emphasized that NCAA championships and events must promote an inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans. Current North Carolina state laws make it challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver on that commitment if NCAA events remained in the state, the board said."
HB2 requires individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate in government buildings, schools and universities, and initially took away the ability of employees to sue their employers in state court for discrimination or wrongful termination, among other things.
Months later, the legislature voted only to change a portion of HB2 that stripped workers of the right to sue their employers for wrongful termination.
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.
Workers in uptown Charlotte worry about the financial impact of losing future tourism dollars connected to the games. Right now, Charlotte is still scheduled to host March Madness rounds in 2019.
Matt Chipley, bar manager for the Mellow Mushroom, is concerned about the domino effect with potential fallout from the ACC, CIAA, and Belk Bowl to follow. None of the organizations has confirmed a decision to change their commitments. He said the restaurant stands to lose thousands of dollars if the games are removed.
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) said the economic impact of the hosting the NCAA games in 2008 was around $11 million. Charlotte also hosted rounds in 2011 and 2015.
According to the CRVA, the biggest sports revenue boost for the city comes from the CIAA; the 2015 economic impact for the conference championship was $55.6 million.
"The NCAA's announcement to relocate its seven championships demonstrates the ongoing, negative impact that HB2 has on the state of North Carolina," CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said. "This continues to be of concern to the CIAA with 8 of our 12 member-institutions residing in the state and our headquarters residing in Charlotte."
"The decision whether or not to relocate our championships is at the discretion of the CIAA Board of Directors. Our priority is always to provide our student-athletes the opportunity to compete, serve, and create impact within their communities and the CIAA footprint." McWilliams continued. "The CIAA Board will continue to discuss and determine how to move forward for the collective interest of our student-athletes and stakeholders and for future of our conference. The CIAA is committed in providing the best experience for our student-athletes and creating a respectful and inclusive culture for our diverse membership and stakeholders."
The economic impact of the ACC Championship game in 2015 was $32.4 million. The Belk Bowl generated a $16.3 million dollar impact last year.
WBTV reached out to the three Atlantic Coast Conference schools in North Carolina for their reactions to Monday night's announcement.
"Carolina Athletics is steadfast in its commitment to fairness, inclusion and ensuring that all who come to our campus for athletics events are welcome," Bubba Cunningham, Athletic Director for the University of North Carolina said. "We are disappointed for the people of this great state, the communities that are scheduled to play host to these championship events and to the students who may be denied the opportunity to compete for championships in their home state."
North Carolina State's Director of Athletics, Debbie Yow, echoed UNC's disappointment about the NCAA's move.
"We're disappointed to learn of the NCAA's decision to remove pre-determined Championship events from the state of North Carolina," Yow said.
"We certainly hope there will be resolution in the very near future. NC State provides and promotes equal opportunity and non-discrimination to anyone who works, lives, studies, visits or participates in campus events, courses, programs and services."
On the other side, Duke University's Director of Athletics, Kevin White, says the university agrees with the NCAA's decision.
"Our position has been clear on this matter, which is that this legislation is discriminatory, troubling and embarrassing. We deplore any efforts to deprive individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, of legal protection and rights," White said. "We will always be committed to diversity and inclusion, and applaud any efforts to ensure that those values are protected and enacted at all times, and in all places in the state of North Carolina."
Swofford ended his statement with a personal point of view on House Bill 2.
"On a personal note, it's time for this bill to be repealed as it's counter to basic human rights," Swofford said.