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NCAA’s North Carolina protest an overdue sign of support

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NCAA’s North Carolina protest an overdue sign of support

HB2 protestors sit on the steps of the North Carolina Museum of History during the Moral Monday rally in Raleigh. Photo by Nathania Johnson / Flickr

HB2 protestors sit on the steps of the North Carolina Museum of History during the Moral Monday rally in Raleigh. Photo by Nathania Johnson / Flickr

HB2 protestors sit on the steps of the North Carolina Museum of History during the Moral Monday rally in Raleigh. Photo by Nathania Johnson / Flickr

HB2 protestors sit on the steps of the North Carolina Museum of History during the Moral Monday rally in Raleigh. Photo by Nathania Johnson / Flickr

By Elizabeth Lepro / Editor-in-Chief

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As expected, North Carolina’s ludicrous anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has brought more negative consequences to the Republican-controlled state.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Monday night that it is relocating all seven championship games — some of which are the first few basketball games of March Madness — scheduled in North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year to protest the state’s House Bill 2. The legislation, passed in March, barred transgender people from using bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity and allowed public officials to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

“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,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.

It’s about time.

In June, the National Basketball Association announced it would be moving the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, relocating an event that supposedly produced $195 million in local economic activity last year. These are rare moments for American athletics, a conglomerate of organizations largely uninterested in responding to social issues.

In fact, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s most recent display of social justice activism has been met with widespread condemnation on social media. Athletes are typically figureheads for more conservative values and not expected to take political or controversial stances.

Hopefully, this momentous statement by the NCAA will set a different precedent for collegiate and pro athletics going forward.

Entertainers including Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr have also pulled their shows from North Carolina in reaction to HB2. But, unlike the entertainment industry, visible representation from the gay and transgender community is almost nonexistent in college athletics — there is only one openly transgender athlete in the NCAA — and the same is true at the professional level.

A few athletes, including 49ers running back David Kopay, have come out as gay after retirement but haven’t inspired many followers. NBA athlete Jason Collins made history when he publicly came out in 2014. Michael Sam, the St. Louis Rams’ seventh-round draft pick in 2014, was going to be the first openly gay man to play in the NFL — until he wasn’t. He was cut at the end of the preseason despite a solid performance.

I don’t often find myself defending the ethics of college athletics. But the fact that the largest college sports association in the country chose to show support for an underrepresented community is commendable.

The North Carolina GOP disagreed. The state’s conservative branch was quick to respond to the NCAA’s decision. In a statement from Kami Mueller, a spokesperson from the party, Mueller said the the announcement was “so absurd it’s almost comical.”

She went on to say, sarcastically, that the next logical step for the NCAA would be to merge all of the teams into “singular, unified, unisex teams” that allow cheerleaders and football players to share locker rooms. She again invoked the nonsensical idea that allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity would open the door for sexual assault by referencing the Baylor University sexual assault scandal last year.

In other words, she missed the point entirely.  

If the North Carolina GOP actually cared about protecting anyone, it wouldn’t have pushed for HB2 in the first place. The NCAA upheld its responsibility to make sure participants and fans can attend its events safely and comfortably — something North Carolina has certainly not done for its citizens.

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NCAA’s North Carolina protest an overdue sign of support