Okay, look, I know you’re laughing right now. I get it—we all know the NCAA has no integrity, so my title is kind of a sham.
However, within that organization, there is selective integrity. When North Carolina passed HB2 in 2016, the ugly law that codified discrimination by forcing transgender people to use public bathrooms based on their birth gender, not their identity gender, one part of the long-term fallout was the NCAA removing all championships from the state. That included a slate of this year’s Division 1 basketball games, which was originally meant to be held in Greensboro, NC, and were subsequently yanked in favor of Greenville, SC. It cost residents of the state the chance to see both Duke and North Carolina in the national championship tournament, and even forced Duke to play what was essentially a road game against the University of South Carolina—a game that Duke lost.
None of this, of course, is what you’d call a big deal in the grander scheme. In a sane world, discrimination against an entire class of people would matter more than the location of a basketball game—even more than the $3.76 billion that the AP estimates the state has lost as a result of the various boycotts and lost business opportunities. But we do not live in a sane world, and in North Carolina, basketball matters way more than it should. (On that count, consider me guilty as charged).
So when the NCAA issued a deadline of Thursday for the state to actually do something about HB2—at that point, the organization would set its championship dates through 2022, and made it clear that barring any legislative change, North Carolina would be left in the cold again—it finally spurred the politicians into action.
The result of that action is House Bill 142, which marks a “compromise” between Gov. Roy Cooper—a Democrat who narrowly defeated former Gov. Pat McCrory based largely on the state’s displeasure with HB2—and Republican leaders from the state legislature. The bill will be debated on the House and Senate floors today, and will likely pass in time for the NCAA to award North Carolina its championship venues.
But the NCAA shouldn’t, and if they have any balls, they won’t. Why? Because this is not a true repeal. It’s something worse—a sneaky piece of superficial lawmaking that not only fails to change the ugliness at the heart of HB2, but actually makes it worse.
Let’s look at what HB142 actually says. First off, Cooper admits it’s not “perfect,” and that it represents a compromise. But what is the compromise? As far as we know, here are the main features:
1. HB2 gets repealed.
2. There can be no ordinances, local or statewide, protecting LGBT people from discrimination—at least until 2020.
3. Regulation of “multi-use facilities,” ie bathrooms, would be left to “state lawmakers.”
Are you scratching your head yet? Are you asking yourself the critical question? Let’s ask it together: “Wait, how is this different from the worst parts of HB2?”
A key component of HB2 is that it made it unlawful for any municipality to pass discrimination ordinances different from the statewide standard, which specifically excluded LGBT people from the list of protected groups. The most famous component of HB2 is that it put the power to regulate multi-use facilities in the hands of state lawmakers. Amazingly, HB142 actually moves things backwards from where they were before HB2.
(Update: It is still unclear whether those old ordinances will come back into effect or not, but the Raleigh News & Observer had this to say:
Second: HB2 had blocked local ordinances in several cities that related to LGBT issues. With HB2 off the books, those existing laws now function again, according to Norma Houston, a UNC School of Government lecturer and a former General Assembly lawyer.
Here’s the actual text of the amendment to HB142 that will put forth the repeal:
Basically, this says that the Republican-controlled General Assembly is the only one that can pass any laws pertaining to bathrooms, and local municipalities or organizations can’t do a thing about it.
This is the so-called “repeal”? This is the big fix?
It’s actually worse. Let’s call it what it is: Bullshit realpolitik. We’re looking at a cosmetic change designed to fool the NCAA into thinking real action has been taken, but which actually institutionalizes discrimination against LGBT citizens to an even greater degree than the original bill.
If the NCAA sees this so-called “change,” and proceeds to actually award North Carolina any championship venues through 2022, there will only be two conclusions to draw. Either the NCAA is so gullible that they were totally fooled by the most transparent legislative sleight-of-hand in recent history, or—most distressing of all—they were only pretending to care about bigotry in the first place.