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Why North Carolina’s governor apologized to Bruce Springsteen

🕐 3 min read

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill, now known as the “bathroom bill,” on March 23, barring transgender individuals from using the bathroom that fits their gender identity. Within two weeks, Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert scheduled for April 10 at the Greensboro Coliseum,

“Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters. As a result, and with deepest apologies to our dedicated fans in Greensboro, we have cancelled our show scheduled for Sunday, April 10th. Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry – which is happening as I write – is one of them,” Springsteen said in a statement on his website. “It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”

He said anyone who bought a ticket would have his or her money refunded.

The governor called Springsteen out on “The Big Show with John Boy and Billy,” a radio program based in North Carolina. McCrory took shots at a variety of entities which have been involved with the bill, from the city of Charlotte — “Charlotte wanted to be the bathroom police” — to Megan Kelly to the state’s Human Rights Commission — “they’re Machiavellian” — to the basic idea of “gender expression.”

At one point the interview, he suggested Springsteen may have ulterior motives for canceling the show – that it was about ticket sales, not LGBT rights.

“I love Bruce Springsteen. I love his music,” McCrory said, before diving in. “But he canceled a concert in Greensboro.”

Then, he continued, “By the way, they only had 8,000 tickets sold, with all respect. Bruce doesn’t mention that. They didn’t quite get the tickets sales they wanted, might have had something to do with it.”

“For him to cancel the concert, two days before the concert, over a bathroom policy — I doubt he read it. I doubt he understands it,” McCrory trailed off.

No one knows where the governor got such a number, and McCrory hasn’t said. But Andrew Brown, a spokesman for the Coliseum, told the News & Record it sold more than 15,000 tickets for the show and only had 100 remaining.

According to Politifact, the Coliseum can generally seat 20,000 but had planned for 16,000 for this show, given Springsteen’s stage setup. Thus the show was nearly sold out.

“No idea where 8,000 may have come from,” Brown told Politifact.

Previously, officials had told local media outlets that the cancellation would cost the Greensboro Coliseum as much as $100,000.

Thursday evening, the governor issued an apology through Politifact, saying he had the sales number wrong when he announced it on public radio.

Here’s the full statement from Josh Ellis, a spokesman for the governor:

“The governor apologizes for using the wrong number. It’s too bad Bruce Springsteen actually canceled on nearly 15,000 people at the last minute. Regardless, the governor is still keeping his Springsteen albums despite their political disagreements.”

Springsteen is among several performers who have canceled shows in North Carolin, including Ringo Starr and Pearl Jam. Some, such as Mumford and Sons and Cyndi Lauper, have played shows there and then donated the proceeds to LGBT rights groups. One group, Against Me!, had a personal stake in the law. Its lead singer Laura Jane Grace has come out as transgender. Grace chose to play the show in protest.

“What something like HB 2 does is it makes trans people fearful, and when you’re being made a target, the natural inclination is to go into hiding,” Grace said. “That’s why going there now and being visible is all the more important.”

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