Just two weeks after “reluctantly” agreeing to reconsider events in North Carolina, the NCAA has announced the first set of events slated to return to the state. The NCAA boycotted the state in the wake of HB2, the state's much-debated “Bathroom Bill.”
According to the Associated Press, the 2020 and 2021 men's basketball tournament opening-weekend games will take place in Greensboro and Raleigh, respectively. The decision to return to North Carolina comes after Gov. Roy Cooper signed a compromise bill, effectively ending some of the most controversial aspects of HB2.
While the compromise bill reverses the previous limitations on transgender bathroom use, it leaves power to control bathroom access with the state legislature, leading some to question whether it goes far enough to curb the impact of HB2. The bill was signed shortly before an NCAA deadline that would have forced the state to wait longer to host events in the future.
''I think it's important for our economy, and it's important for our national reputation,'' Gov. Cooper said on Tuesday, just before the NCAA announcement. ''The NCAA also believes North Carolina has more work to do and we look forward to working with them. I think for sure they'll bring some of their championships here. I think they value North Carolina and want to be here and we'll look forward to what they say.''
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the compromise bill, citing a lack of clear protection for LGBT people in North Carolina. An April 4 statement from the ACLU included a quote from James Esseks, director of the union's LGBT and HIV Project, who criticized the NCAA's decision to reconsider the state as a future host:
“North Carolina's new law does nothing to guarantee that LGBT people will be protected from discrimination, and as the NCAA's own statement acknowledges, the rights of trans student-athletes, coaches, and fans in particular remain in legal limbo.”
In addition to opening weekend for the 2020 and 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournaments, the NCAA also awarded North Carolina rounds in the Division I men's and women's soccer championships, as well as a Division I field hockey championship, in the coming years.
Esseks was quoted in a new ACLU statement on Tuesday reiterating his disappointment with the NCAA's decision.
“When the NCAA originally withdrew events from North Carolina, they did so because they claimed to care about 'fairness and inclusion' for college athletes and fans,” Esseks said. “It's a shame to see that those concerns have already fallen by the wayside.”