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ACC moves all neutral-site championship games out of North Carolina

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

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After North Carolina lawmakers passed legislation barring transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identities, the ACC announced on Wednesday it would move all of its neutral-site championships out of the state.

The decision, which will be in effect for at least the 2016-2017 academic year, comes as a result of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which was passed in March and has been nationally criticized as a discriminatory law.

This means the ACC will have to find a new destination for the goal the Pitt football team set at the start of training camp –– to make it to the ACC championship game, which was set to take place in Charlotte.

The NCAA was the first to relocate all seven of its championship games scheduled in North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year — including March Madness.

In response, the North Carolina GOP released a statement condemning the decision.

“This is so absurd it’s almost comical. I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams,” the statement from North Carolina GOP spokesperson Kami Mueller said. “Under the NCAA’s logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers and hotel rooms.”

Two days after the NCAA’s decision, the ACC followed suit.

“The ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination,” the ACC Council of Presidents said in a statement. “We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values.”

Clemson University President James P. Clements, who is also the chair of the ACC Council of Presidents, said in a statement the ACC presidents engaged in a “wide-ranging and vigorous discussion” of the issue in the two days since the NCAA’s decision.

“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,” Clements said in the statement.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford emphasized that while not everyone agrees with the decision, it was one the league had to make.

“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 said in a statement. “Today’s decision is one of principle, and while [it] 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.”

According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, the ACC Football Championship has had an economic impact on the city of over $63 million the last two seasons, with over $32 million in direct spending.

The ACC did not give a date for when the conference will announce the new locations. According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, Orlando has emerged as an early front-runner to replace Charlotte as the site of the 2016 ACC Football Championship.

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ACC moves all neutral-site championship games out of North Carolina