CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) said it is pulling all of its "neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year" over House Bill 2.
The decision was made during a meeting of the ACC Council of Presidents in Clemson Wednesday.
"As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination," a release from the council said. "Every one of our 15 universities is strongly committed to these values and therefore, we will continue to host ACC Championships at campus sites."
"We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year," the statement continued. "All locations will be announced in the future from the conference office."
The move comes two days after the National College Association of Athletes (NCAA)'s announced it would pull all championship events from North Carolina over issues surrounding House Bill 2.
According to ACC Commissioner John Swofford, HB2 had previously been scheduled to be discussed during the council's meeting.
"The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount," Swofford said Wednesday. "Today's decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships."
Neutral site championships (in date order):
- Women’s Soccer
- Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving
- Women’s Basketball
- Men’s and Women’s Tennis
- Women’s Golf
- Men’s Golf
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.
The ACC Football Championship Game was slated to be held in Charlotte in December and was scheduled to be hosted in the city through 2019.
Charlotte Regional Visitor's Authority CEO Tom Murray called the cancellation of the football championship "a blow to Charlotte's visitor economy and is irreplaceable at this late date."
"The event has consistently generated significant economic impact for the city that greatly contributes to our quality of life in Charlotte and in North Carolina and helps sustain thousands of jobs," Murrary said. "We've proven to be a welcoming host city for these events and hope we'll have the opportunity to bring the championship back to Charlotte in future years."
According to Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA), economic impact of the ACC Championship game in 2015 was $32.4 million. The previous year brought in $30.9 million. More than 104,000 people attended the games in 2014 and 2015.
The Charlotte Sports Foundation said fan excitement for the 2016 championship game was at an all-time high and more than 45,000 tickets for the game had already been sold.
"Charlotte is known as the 'Home of the ACC Football Championship,' and we are proud of the rich tradition and superb fan experience established in the six years Charlotte has hosted the game," Executive Director Will Webb said. "We are hopeful and optimistic that we will have the opportunity to renew this wonderful tradition as early as 2017."
Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement Wednesday evening on the ACC's decision to move championships from North Carolina.
"The issue of redefining gender and basic norms of privacy will be resolved in the near future in the United States court system for not only North Carolina, but the entire nation," McCrory said. "I strongly encourage all public and private institutions to both respect and allow our nation's judicial system to proceed without economic threats or political retaliation toward the 22 states that are currently challenging government overreach."
The statement is the exact same statement McCrory sent Tuesday afternoon in response to the NCAA's announcement Monday night that it was pulling tournaments from the state.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is the Democratic candidate for Governor, released a video statement earlier in the day calling for a repeal of House Bill 2.
"I am incredibly disappointed in the news this week -- first we lost the NCAA tournament games, and now we've lost the ACC championships. It is clear that we cannot wait until November to repeal House Bill 2," Cooper said. "This is not just about sports. This is about communities in North Carolina suffering real economic blows. The news this week made it clear that there is no end in sight to the losses we'll face unless this law is repealed."
"Unfortunately, we've seen no leadership from our Governor on this issue. He has doubled down on this bad law as our state has taken hit after hit – and he's not only ignoring the impact on communities, but actively attacking businesses and organizations who dare speak out against HB2," Cooper continued. "This is not who we are as North Carolinians. And it doesn't have to go this way. The solution is simple. Repeal House Bill 2, and do it now."
Kimberly Reynolds, Executive Director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, echoed Cooper's statement saying the pullout of the ACC championship games and the NCAA tournaments could have been avoided.
"Another disappointing day for the state. How much more money and how many more jobs does North Carolina have to lose before Governor McCrory stops pointing fingers and fixes his mistake?" Reynolds asked. "It is way past time to repeal this disastrous law."
Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts, who was out of town Wednesday afternoon, tweeted her response to the news.
"How many companies and sports organizations have to leave NC before the Governor & NCGA leadership wake up to the 21st Century & repeal HB2?" she tweeted. "Hard working North Carolina families deserve better."
The Charlotte Chamber, who was asked the Charlotte City Council to repeal the non-discrimination ordinance in May, released a statement saying it was actively engaged with "state and city leaders to seek a solution to the challenges created by the city's passage of a non-discrimination ordinance and the state's subsequent passage of HB2."
"We are hopeful that an eventual solution can be achieved that will allow for modifications to existing law to address issues raised by many, including professional and collegiate sports groups," the Chamber's statement continued. "The Charlotte Chamber believes any changes should include giving municipalities the ability to extend non-discriminatory protections to the LGBT community. Our Chamber will continue working with local, state and federal representatives to pursue policy solutions that uphold fairness and equality for everyone. We will continue working to ensure that Charlotte remains an open, welcoming and safe city for all."
The game was scheduled to be played Saturday, December 3 at Bank of America Stadium. A spokesman for the Carolina Panthers released a statement Wednesday afternoon.
"Although we are disappointed, we remain steadfast in providing an inclusive environment at Bank of America Stadium. As we stated last summer, after more than 20 years of operations, we undoubtedly have had transgender persons attend events here and, presumably, they have used the restroom of the gender with which they identify," the team spokesman said. "Our organization is against discrimination and has a long history of treating all of our patrons at Bank of America Stadium with dignity and respect."
North Carolina Speaker Representative Tim Moore, a Republican from Cleveland County, has been a staunch supporter of House Bill 2 and is even listed as a Intervenor Defendant in the federal lawsuit over HB2.
He called the NCAA and ACC moving games out of North Carolina "unfortunate."
"No one ever wants to lose events under any circumstances, but these organizations are certainly entitled to host their events wherever they choose. The truth remains that this law was never about and does not promote discrimination," Moore said. "We will continue to advocate that North Carolina is a great place to live, do business, hold events and to visit."
Democratic Senator Jeff Jackson, who has been strongly opposed to HB2 since it was proposed, said he's ready for the law to be repealed.
"The debate over whether HB2 is hurting our state is officially over. The basic fact that this law is doing needless damage to our economy and our reputation is now beyond dispute," Jackson said. "As soon as the governor is ready to call for a special session to fix this mess, I'm ready to get in my car and drive to Raleigh. We're all waiting on him."
Wednesday afternoon the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Equality NC hailed the ACC's decision to "stand up for the safety of its employees, players, and fans by moving championship games out of North Carolina."
"In standing up for LGBTQ equality, the ACC, the NCAA, and the NBA are all standing on the right side of history. Governor McCrory and state lawmakers should work swiftly to repeal HB2 and bring back championship games to North Carolina," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "The fact that Governor McCrory and other lawmakers continue to play politics with discrimination is inexcusable, enormously costly, and simply wrong. The people of North Carolina deserve better and have a chance to make their voices heard November 8."
"Yesterday it was the NCAA. Last month it was the NBA. Today, the ACC - home conference to many of our beloved teams - will take their marquis events out of North Carolina," said Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro. "It has never been more clear than it is right now - HB2 is hurting our state every minute that it remains law. It's hurting our people, our reputation, and our economy. I'm calling on Pat McCrory today - accept responsibility for the legislation you signed. It's crystal clear that HB2 is bad for us. Stop playing the blame game and clean up this mess you've made of our state, because we cannot afford to wait any longer."
Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of NC Values Coalition released a statement Wednesday saying "North Carolina has stopped a dangerous local government trend to sacrifice the safety, dignity, and privacy of our children in public bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers just to advance a progressive sexual agenda."
"The ACC and NCAA announcements are an attempt to force the State of North Carolina to sacrifice our children's safety on the altar of political correctness, and legislators who voted to stop this trend should think twice before they abandon our children." Fitzgerald continued.
Earlier this week, the athletic directors from the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State expressed disappointed about the NCAA's decision to move tournament play from North Carolina.
Duke University's Director of Athletics, Kevin White, said 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."
Chancellors Randy Woodson and Carol L. Folt, from North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina, issued a joint statement Wednesday afternoon.
"We appreciate the Council of Presidents' reaffirmation of the ACC's strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as the decision to keep ACC championship contests on our campuses. However, we regret today's decision will negatively affect many North Carolinians, especially in the affected host communities."
"UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State remain steadfast in our commitment to welcoming and supporting all people. Our policies protect students, faculty and staff from discrimination, regardless of age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status," the joint statement continued. "As such, we remain dedicated to providing and promoting equal opportunity and non-discrimination to everyone who participates in athletic events on our campuses."
Clemson University President James P. Clements, chair of the ACC Council of Presidents, said the decision to move the neutral site championships out of North Carolina was "not an easy one but it is consistent with the shared values of inclusion and non-discrimination at all of our institutions."