RALEIGH, N.C. – It was the right upper-cut that quickly followed the strong left cross that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) landed to collegiate sport championships scheduled to be played this year in the state of North Carolina.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) announced that it would be move all of its originally scheduled 2016-2017 neutral-site championships out of North Carolina in response to the state’s current House Bill 2 (HB2) legislation.
The neutral site sport championships that will be relocated include women’s soccer, football, men’s/ women’s swimming and diving, women’s basketball, men’s/women’s tennis, men’s/women’s golf (separate events), and baseball.
The written statement issued from the ACC Council of Presidents regarding the conference’s action represented a united opinion and voice.
“As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination. Every one of our 15 universities is strongly committed to these values and therefore, we will continue to host ACC Championships at campus sites. We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year. All locations will be announced in the future from the conference office.”
The announcement followed the lead the NCAA took two days earlier in relocating its upcoming seven championship competitions and taking a stance to what according to the NCAA Board of Governors regarded as “cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections.”
“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships,” NCAA president Mark Emmert stated via an announcement released on Monday.
“We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans and everyone taking part in our championships.”
The rationale provided by the NCAA included points describing how “the dynamic in North Carolina is different from that of other states”.
The Association’s decision and action considered the following:
- North Carolina laws invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.
- North Carolina has the only statewide law that makes it unlawful to use a restroom different from the gender on one’s birth certificate, regardless of gender identity.
- North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community.
- Five states plus numerous cities prohibit travel to North Carolina for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include student-athletes and campus athletics staff. These states are New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut.
The ACC Council of Presidents followed in step and provided the direction for ACC commissioner John Swofford and his staff to follow in its decision-making process to relocate championship events accordingly.
“The ACC presidents engaged in a constructive, wide-ranging and vigorous discussion of this complex issue over the past two days, Clemson University president James P. Clements, chair of the ACC Council of Presidents, stated.
“The decision to move the neutral site championships out of North Carolina while HB2 remains the law was not an easy one but it is consistent with the shared values of inclusion and non-discrimination at all of our institutions.”
The ACC will now move quickly to find alternate out-of-state locations and announce the relevant details for all eight impacted championship events in order to allow member institutions to make travel arrangements accordingly.
“The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount,” Swofford stated.
“Today’s decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships.”