Not a done deal, but NBA expects to play All-Star Game in CLT

The NBA all but confirmed on Friday the league will award the 2019 All-Star Game to the Charlotte Hornets and the Spectrum Center. Commissioner Adam Silver said the league will require all involved in the All-Star events in North Carolina to make clear commitments to diversity and ensuring inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Last summer, the NBA became the first major sports league or conference to remove an event from North Carolina because of House Bill 2. That law, passed in March 2016, required public restroom use in government buildings on the basis of birth gender and prevented cities and towns from adding LGBT characteristics to non-discrimination policies.

Charlotte was originally scheduled to host the All-Star Game in February 2017. Instead, it went to New Orleans. The weekend of exhibitions, dunk and 3-point contests and other events is televised in more than 200 countries and is expected to generate $60 million worth of visitor spending.

The state legislature passed a compromise law last week that repealed HB2 but drew criticism from LGBT advocates and others because it places a three-year moratorium on LGBT ordinances. The bathroom provision was removed.

“This is not an easy decision,” Silver said. “The most recent change in the law does not mean the fundamental issues are resolved. But, after considering all points of view, we concluded that Charlotte will be eligible to host the 2019 NBA All-Star Game.”

Silver made his remarks during a press conference after NBA owners concluded the spring board of governors meetings in New York.

Open access and anti-discrimination policies will need to be verified and guaranteed before the NBA officially puts the game in Charlotte in February 2019. Venues, hotels and other sites around Charlotte must show they will be inclusive, the commissioner added, saying those issues need to be resolved within the next month.

“It’s not a done deal yet,” Silver said. “What it means is we now need to go back to Charlotte and ensure that, one, all of our typical requirements are satisfied, so that process hasn’t begun yet. And then, in addition, we’re going to develop an anti-discrimination policy and then ask all of our participating partners to sign on to that policy. If those requirements are met, it’s our expectation the All-Star festivities will be there for 2019.”

The NCAA and the ACC have made similar moves since HB2 was repealed, pledging to bring back events and honor previous commitments threatened by the law. The NCAA, earlier this week, offered similarly dismayed opinions about the repeal and its failure to do more to protect LGBT people.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and advocacy groups such as Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC, as well as corporations including Salesforce and Levi’s, have blasted the replacement law as a “false repeal.”

Part of the reason for the league’s decision stems from the NBA’s extensive presence and history in North Carolina. The original Charlotte Hornets joined the league in 1988 and Greensboro is now home to an NBA Developmental League team.

“Twenty-nine NBA teams travel every year to play in Charlotte, stay in its hotels and eat in its restaurants,” Silver said. “We believe that an All-Star Game in Charlotte could be a powerful way to display our values of equality and inclusion. And by engaging even more deeply in North Carolina, we can be part of a larger, national effort toward securing LGBT equality. Ultimately, I believe changing attitudes and not just laws is what will lead to that result.”

Erik Spanberg
Senior Staff Writer
Charlotte Business Journal

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