NCAA, NBA should be more po­lit­i­cally ac­tive

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - DERON SNY­DER

North Carolina has been re­leased from the penalty box. Af­ter re­peal­ing the con­tro­ver­sial “bath­room bill” last week and re­plac­ing it with a com­pro­mise mea­sure, the state was re­warded by the NCAA and At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence. Events that were pulled due to the anti-LGBT na­ture of House Bill 2 can re­turn.

The ACC voted to put North Carolina back in the run­ning for con­fer­ence events last week and the NCAA fol­lowed suit Tues­day, an­nounc­ing that the state will be con­sid­ered for cham­pi­onship events in the 2018-22 cy­cle.

“We are ac­tively de­ter­min­ing site se­lec­tions, and this new law has min­i­mally achieved a sit­u­a­tion where we be­lieve NCAA cham­pi­onships may be con­ducted in a non-dis­crim­i­na­tory en­vi­ron­ment,” the state­ment read. “If we find that our ex­pec­ta­tions of a dis­crim­i­na­tion-free en­vi­ron­ment are not met, we will not hes­i­tate to take nec­es­sary ac­tion at any time.

“The board re­mains con­cerned that some may per­ceive North Carolina’s mora­to­rium against af­ford­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for com­mu­ni­ties to ex­tend ba­sic civil rights as a sig­nal that dis­crim­i­na­tory be­hav­ior is per­mit­ted and ac­cept­able, which is in­con­sis­tent with the NCAA By­laws.”

Eco­nomic pres­sure by the NCAA and other en­ti­ties paid off. The 2017 NBA All-Star Game was played in New Or­leans, in­stead of Char­lotte as orig­i­nally planned. PayPal can­celed an op­er­a­tions cen­ter that rep­re­sented a $3.6 mil­lion in­vest­ment and would’ve cre­ated 400 jobs. More than 120 com­pa­nies signed a let­ter protest­ing the law while scores of en­ter­tain­ers and con­ven­tions can­celed book­ings. Sev­eral gov­er­nors and may­ors banned non-essen­tial gov­ern­ment travel to North Carolina.

Div­ing into the po­lit­i­cal fray head­first made the NCAA and NBA more than sports or­ga­ni­za­tions. Just like the NFL — when it pulled a Su­per Bowl from Ari­zona for its re­fusal to rec­og­nize the na­tional hol­i­day for

Martin Luther King Jr. — the NCAA and NBA took a stand out­side of ath­let­ics.

It makes me won­der: What other causes are wor­thy of their sup­port? If they’re in­ter­ested in fight­ing dis­crim­i­na­tory ac­tion and the dam­ag­ing reper­cus­sions, I have the per­fect sug­ges­tion.

Fo­cus­ing on bills that af­fect trans­gen­der peo­ple and their rights in a re­stroom is fine and dandy.

But shoot­ing down bills that af­fect peo­ple of color and their rights to a vot­ing booth is ar­guably more im­por­tant and im­pact­ful.

A fed­eral ap­peals court last fall in­val­i­dated a North Carolina vot­ing bill that tried to turn back the clock. The leg­is­la­tion was ruled to be the most re­stric­tive “since the era of Jim Crow,” de­signed to “tar­get African Amer­i­cans with al­most sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion.”

If the NCAA and NBA are go­ing to be out­raged over ac­cess to bath­rooms, how can they shrug over ac­cess to bal­lots? If the or­ga­ni­za­tions want to bat­tle dis­crim­i­na­tion, how can they ig­nore dis­en­fran­chise­ment?

Most NBA play­ers and ath­letes in the NCAA’s rev­enue-pro­duc­ing sports are black, plac­ing them (and fam­ily mem­bers) at risk when leg­is­la­tors make brazen at­tempts to limit vot­ing rights. Sports or­ga­ni­za­tions should feel com­pelled to de­cry such ma­li­cious mea­sures in­stead of leav­ing all the work to civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tions.

But the in­dig­na­tion that arose in re­sponse to HB2 was nonex­is­tent when the state used racial data to craft leg­is­la­tion that re­stricted vot­ing and reg­is­tra­tion in five dif­fer­ent ways, all of which dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected black vot­ers. Some of the moves were bla­tant, like elim­i­nat­ing an early vot­ing day on Sun­day be­cause black churches tra­di­tion­ally pro­vide trans­porta­tion for “souls to the polls.”

North Carolina knew ex­actly what it was do­ing. “Coun­ties with Sun­day vot­ing in 2014 were dis­pro­por­tion­ately black” and “dis­pro­por­tion­ately Demo­cratic,” the leg­is­la­ture told the ap­peals court. The court re­sponded that such an ad­mis­sion is “as close to a smok­ing gun as we are likely to see in mod­ern times.”

Now that HB2 has been re­pealed, the NBA is ex­pected to give Char­lotte the 2019 All-Star Game. The league ear­lier said it would do so if suf­fi­cient changes were made to the mea­sure, which it deemed dis­crim­i­na­tory not just be­cause of re­strooms.

“The bath­room is­sue has be­come a lit­tle bit of a dis­trac­tion,” com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver told re­porters last sum­mer be­fore the game was re­lo­cated. “From the very be­gin­ning, that was not the core is­sue (in the league’s un­ease). It was pro­tec­tion for the LGBT com­mu­nity in terms of eco­nomic rights, per­sonal rights.”

When the NCAA de­cided to pull cham­pi­onship events from North Carolina, NCAA pres­i­dent Mark Em­mert said “fair­ness is about more than the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in col­lege sports, or even com­pete for cham­pi­onships.”

The bat­tle isn’t over. Nearly half the states have passed, or are at­tempt­ing to pass, vot­ing leg­is­la­tion that dis­pro­por­tion­ately hurts African Amer­i­cans and His­pan­ics. Suf­fice it to say such laws would never be imag­ined if those blocs were more likely to vote dif­fer­ently.

That’s not fair. Yet I haven’t heard a peep from the NCAA or NBA, let alone the big-name celebri­ties and com­pa­nies that pulled out of North Carolina over HB2.

Fights must be picked and cho­sen but the penalty box has been es­tab­lished. Sports or­ga­ni­za­tions (along with ev­ery­one else) should con­tinue to use it for right­eous causes.


The ACC put North Carolina back in the run­ning for con­fer­ence events last week and the NCAA fol­lowed suit on Tues­day.

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