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NCAA President on Returning to North Carolina After HB2: State Did "Absolute Minimum"

Mark Emmert "wound up convinced the governor got as good a deal as they were going to get passed in that legislature."
Photo by Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

After the NCAA announced that its championship events, including the cornerstone national basketball tournament, would be returning to the state of North Carolina, NCAA president Mark Emmert said Thursday that the state legislators "kind of did the absolute minimum to earn their way back into the association's good graces." Previously, the NCAA had removed its championship events after the hateful and fear-mongering House Bill 2 was passed last year, making it a law that a person had to use the bathroom associated with the gender listed on his or her birth certificate. In other words, it was a law that specifically discriminated against transgender people.


The NCAA took a bold stand, along with other organizations like the NBA, and helped force some change—the specific provision concerning public bathrooms was repealed, but it essentially returns North Carolina to a status quo where state law still does not protect trans people from discrimination. By saying that this is good enough, the NCAA, like the N.C. legislature, ultimately caved. Earlier this week, the NCAA announced that 36 events, across men's and women's sports, would be hosted in North Carolina next year. Emmert provided his lukewarm defense of the situation during a yearly commissioner's meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors, saying, "I wound up convinced the governor got as good a deal as they were going to get passed in that legislature."

Here's some more:

"Had we not gone back to North Carolina, we would have also had to say we can't go to Tennessee, we can't go to Arkansas," Emmert said. "It would have been hypocritical, at the very least, to say no we're not going back to North Carolina, but we're ok with Tennessee. They're all virtually identical landscapes right now."

Tennessee, itself no stranger to the dramatic and public reproachment of elected officials, recently had its version of the bathroom bill killed in the state senate. Arkansas's has been tabled for the time being, and has a governor who finds it unnecessary in the first place. These sorts of laws are rapidly falling out of favor, likely because they saw what happened to North Carolina, so don't feel hypocritical, Mark Emmert—feel emboldened. Not to mention, there is something to be said for not appeasing the lowest common denominator because it would make for an intellectually inconvenient argument.

Of course, this is exactly what the NCAA has done. After forcing this issue into the national spotlight and drawing public outrage, North Carolina felt compelled to change. The risk worked. Then the state tried to low-ball everyone, and the NCAA accepted. Just like the North Carolina legislature, Emmert and Co. did the absolute minimum.