NCAA hit by 2 sides over bath­room bill

Po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism ques­tioned


The NCAA may have got­ten what it wanted with the re­peal of the North Carolina bath­room bill, but it wasn’t much of a vic­tory for the col­lege sports be­he­moth.

In­stead, the NCAA found it­self trapped Tues­day be­tween gay rights groups livid over its de­ci­sion to place North Carolina back in the mix for cham­pi­onship games, and state Repub­li­cans de­ter­mined to hold the as­so­ci­a­tion ac­count­able for its par­ti­san med­dling.

State Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors have in­tro­duced a bill call­ing for the IRS to in­ves­ti­gate the NCAA and At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence for sus­pected vi­o­la­tions of their tax-ex­empt sta­tus stem­ming from their ad­vo­cacy against House Bill 2 in North Carolina.

“Peo­ple are just fed up with this gi­ant mo­nop­oly that makes a ton of money step­ping way out of bounds and play­ing pol­i­tics,” said state Rep. Mark Brody, a Repub­li­can. “There’s a lot of re­sent­ment in North Carolina with the NCAA. And I don’t know if it will get re­paired.”

He said Repub­li­cans are also

pre­par­ing a let­ter to House and Se­nate com­mit­tees in Wash­ing­ton, ask­ing them to in­ves­ti­gate the NCAA’s po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment, which in­cludes re­cent in­cur­sions to ban­ish In­dian mas­cots and the Con­fed­er­ate flag.

“They con­tinue to get in­volved be­cause no­body chal­lenges them,” Mr. Brody said.

The NCAA pulled seven cham­pi­onship games out of North Carolina af­ter the en­act­ment last year of HB2, which reg­u­lated pub­lic re­strooms, locker rooms and shower fa­cil­i­ties on the ba­sis of bi­o­log­i­cal sex. Af­ter months of out­cry and calls for boy­cotts by the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der com­mu­nity and its sup­port­ers, the law was re­pealed by the North Carolina leg­is­la­ture last week. An­other bill, HB142, signed into law Fri­day places a three­year mora­to­rium on lo­cal or­di­nances reg­u­lat­ing pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions.

Ac­tivists on the op­po­site side of the bath­room is­sue were un­happy as well.

Chad Grif­fin, pres­i­dent of the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign, which spear­headed the boy­cott of North Carolina, said the NCAA “back­tracked on their vow to pro­tect LGBTQ play­ers, em­ploy­ees and fans.”

The NCAA did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment, but Pres­i­dent Mark Em­mert in­sisted in a March 30 press con­fer­ence that the league “does not con­sider it­self an en­tity that has any busi­ness telling a state what their laws should be.”

“State’s laws and com­mu­nity’s laws are the busi­ness of their elected lead­ers and the cit­i­zens of those states,” Mr. Em­mert said. “We, on the other hand, have a job to de­ter­mine which states we will take our cham­pi­onships to and mak­ing sure that we can do that in en­vi­ron­ments that sup­port the col­le­giate model and the 1,100 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties that are part of the NCAA.”

Tami Fitzger­ald, NC Val­ues Coali­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, called it hyp­o­crit­i­cal for the NCAA to go to the mat with North Carolina in­stead of en­forc­ing trans­gen­der equal­ity at its mem­ber schools.

“We’ve thought all along that the NCAA was act­ing hyp­o­crit­i­cally be­cause they were de­mand­ing North Carolina change its pol­icy that pro­hibits men in women’s re­strooms and women in men’s re­strooms, as if the sexes were equal,” she said. “And yet they have sep­a­rate leagues for men’s and women’s leagues; they don’t even open their locker rooms to the op­po­site sex.”

In an Au­gust 2015 analysis, USA Today Sports said only 10 out of 50 Di­vi­sion I pro­grams con­tacted said they had used the NCAA’s 2011 rec­om­men­da­tions on trans­gen­der in­clu­sion to en­act for­mal poli­cies.

“They don’t hold [uni­ver­si­ties] ac­count­able, but they want to hold North Carolina ac­count­able,” Mr. Brody said.

The NCAA board an­nounced Tues­day that it had “re­luc­tantly voted to al­low con­sid­er­a­tion” of North Carolina cities as hosts for post­sea­son play, de­spite the re­peal bill’s in­clu­sion of a three-year mora­to­rium on lo­cal or­di­nances reg­u­lat­ing pub­lic re­strooms.

The de­ci­sion was made a year af­ter the NCAA joined the eco­nomic boy­cott of North Carolina over HB2, is­su­ing a rule in April 2016 re­quir­ing host cities for cham­pi­onships to “pro­vide an en­vi­ron­ment that is safe, healthy and free of dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

This wasn’t the NCAA’s first foray a hot-but­ton po­lit­i­cal de­bate re­lated only tan­gen­tially to col­lege athletics.

For 15 years, the as­so­ci­a­tion banned South Carolina from host­ing cham­pi­onship events over the fly­ing of the Con­fed­er­ate flag on state­house grounds. That boy­cott ended in 2015 when Gov. Nikki Ha­ley took down the stars and bars in the wake of a racially mo­ti­vated mass shoot­ing in a Charleston church.

In 2005, the NCAA is­sued a ban on In­dian mas­cots, nick­names and lo­gos deemed “hos­tile and of­fen­sive” un­der threat of be­ing ex­cluded from host­ing post­sea­son tour­na­ments. Schools that re­ceived of­fi­cial per­mis­sion from the tribe in ques­tion were able to keep their mas­cots.

In light of its past po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy, Hud­son Tay­lor, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ath­lete Ally, said Tues­day’s de­ci­sion sets the “prece­dent that LGBT dis­crim­i­na­tion is OK to the NCAA.”

“Today the NCAA told the LGBT com­mu­nity that they are not a pri­or­ity,” Mr. Tay­lor said on the press call. “For 15 years, the NCAA banned South Carolina from host­ing cham­pi­onships and events for the fly­ing of the Con­fed­er­ate flag. They banned schools with Na­tive Amer­i­can mas­cots in post­sea­son com­pe­ti­tion. So to re­ward North Carolina with NCAA cham­pi­onships and events when they con­tinue to dis­crim­i­nate against LGBT ath­letes, ad­min­is­tra­tors, coaches and fans is to en­dorse that dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

The non­profit col­le­giate sports league joined PayPal, Deutsche Bank and the NBA to cur­tail busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties af­ter Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB2, which reg­u­lated pub­lic re­strooms, locker rooms and show­ers on the ba­sis of bi­o­log­i­cal sex.

Un­like the one-time po­lit­i­cal stands made by other com­pa­nies, how­ever, the NCAA boy­cott re­quired a re­cur­ring com­mit­ment to keep games out of North Carolina.

When it came time to de­ter­mine lo­ca­tions for cham­pion events un­til 2022, Ms. Fitzger­ald said, the NCAA may have re­al­ized that they had taken things “a lit­tle bit too far.”

Un­less the IRS reins in the NCAA, Mr. Brody said, he fears that the or­ga­ni­za­tion will add more po­lit­i­cal con­di­tions to its cov­eted cham­pi­onship lo­cales.

“What hap­pens if they turn around and say, ‘We don’t want the death penalty any­more?’” said Mr. Brody. “There’s no limit to where they can go.”


The NCAA says it will con­sider North Carolina as a host for cham­pi­onship games af­ter the state rolled back the so-called “bath­room bill,” a law that lim­ited pro­tec­tions for LGBT peo­ple.

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