NBA will move 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte over HB2 law

LAS VEGAS – The NBA announced Thursday afternoon it would be moving the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina, due to the state’s anti-LGBT legislation.

“The NBA has decided to relocate the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte with the hope of rescheduling for 2019,” the league said in a statement.

“Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change. We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.

“Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community – current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans. While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.

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“We look forward to re-starting plans for our All-Star festivities in Charlotte for 2019 provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.”

The league said no decision has been made over where the game will now be played, but that one will be announced in the coming weeks. The Vertical, which first reported the the league was going to move the game, said it would likely be moved to New Orleans. League sources had told The Washington Post earlier this week that there had been ongoing discussions over moving the game, and sources had indicated Chicago, New York and Las Vegas were all potential options. All four cities have the same essential fact in common: they all have the infrastructure and hotel accommodations to host such an event on short notice.

Ever since the state passed House Bill 2 back in March, a law which requires transgender individuals to use public restrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificates, the NBA has consistently applied pressure to the state to make changes. And after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed his disappointment with the state legislature’s decision last month to make only small changes to the bill, this seemed to be the only likely outcome.

“We were frankly hoping that they would make some steps towards modifying the legislation,” Silver said, “and, frankly, I was disappointed that they didn’t.”

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The NBA is just the latest group to shun the state in the wake of HB2. In April, Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in Greensboro. Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr and Boston likewise canceled shows, while Cirque du Soleil bypassed two scheduled performances. PayPal canceled plans to open a new payment center in Charlotte, while Deutsche Bank did away with plans to expand its operations in Cary, costing the state an estimated 650 jobs when combined. Since April more than 120 companies have called for a repeal of the law, as PepsiCo, American Airlines and Wells Fargo have all raised concerns.

The University of Albany also canceled a game at Duke University in November because of the executive order by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo banning publicly funded, non-essential travel to North Carolina.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Mike Krzyzewski, coach of both Duke University and Team USA, told USA Today after Wednesday’s Olympic team practice here. He said he stood by that statement Thursday, adding “Our state has lost a lot.”

After an initial statement in March in which the league said it was “deeply concerned” about the law, Silver followed up in April during a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors in April by saying if the law didn’t change, the game would have to move.

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“We’ve been, I think, crystal clear, that a change in the law is necessary to play in the kind of environment that we think is appropriate for a celebratory NBA event,” he said. “But that we did have some time and if the view of the people who were allied with us, in terms of a change, the view of the people on the ground in North Carolina was that the situation would best be served by us not setting a deadline, then we would not set a deadline at this time.”

Silver stuck to the same stance when he addressed the law during the NBA Finals, though he added the calendar was beginning to work against the league, and that a decision would likely have to be made in July.

When the state legislature made minimal changes to the bill during its session last month, changes that were signed recently by Republican Governor Pat McCrory, it used up the last chance it had to keep the game in Charlotte.

The decision will undoubtedly be a blow to the Charlotte Hornets, which are owned by Michael Jordan and had gained some momentum over the past 12 months as a franchise between being awarded the game, making it back to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and retaining prominent free agents Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams this month.

Now, instead of celebrating the game returning to the city for the first time since 1991, the Hornets will watch it be played elsewhere.

“The NBA is taking an important stand against North Carolina’s unconstitutional and discriminatory HB2,” said Heidi Hess, senior campaign manager for the social change organization CREDO, in a statement. “This is further evidence that hate and bigotry are bad for business,” Hess continued. “North Carolina’s state-sponsored anti-LGBT discrimination will continue to damage the state’s economy and a reputation until HB2 is fully repealed.”