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Discriminatory Bill Could Cost North Carolina Future NCAA Tournaments

A recently passed bill in the North Carolina legislature that discriminates against LGBT people may soon become problematic for cities in the state to host NCAA sanctioned events.

by Kevin Trahan
Mar 24 2016, 10:33pm

Photo by Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina passed a bill Thursday banning local governments from having to provide LGBT protections within anti-discrimination laws.

That means that transgender people could be forced to use the bathroom of the gender assigned to them at birth, and it also means that businesses are allowed to refuse service to people based on their sexual orientation.

Because of the discriminatory nature of the bill, North Carolina could be in danger of losing future opportunities to host National Collegiate Athletic Association championships, including the NCAA Tournament, according to a former NCAA official.

Six first-and-second-round NCAA Tournament games were held in Raleigh this year.

"If legislation is in place that could cause anyone to feel unwelcome," said Greg Shaheen, a current events consultant and former NCAA senior vice president in charge of running the NCAA Tournament, "any bid cities should take notice of it, because it at best handicaps their bid, or it could even make them ineligible to bid."

The NCAA released a statement to USA Today:

"We'll continue to monitor current events, which include issues surrounding diversity, in all cities bidding on NCAA championships and events, as well as cities that have already been named as future host sites. Our commitment to the fair treatment of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, has not changed and is at the core of our NCAA values. It is our expectation that all people will be welcomed and treated with respect in cities that host our NCAA championships and events."

North Carolina is typically a prime target for high-visibility events. Greensboro and Charlotte are scheduled to host NCAA Tournament games in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and many other championships in other sports. Now, those cities may face far bigger hurdles to receive bids.

"It's immensely limiting," Shaheen said. " You're basically saying we only want certain types of people to be here."

There is precedent for removing events from North Carolina. The NCAA has taken stands against discrimination before. It banned South Carolina and Mississippi from hosting NCAA events in 2001 for flying the Confederate flag, and in 2005, it banned schools with offensive Native American imagery from hosting events.

The Indianapolis-based organization also publicly contemplated moving and taking events out of Indiana when a law similar to the one in North Carolina was passed. That law was then amended to account for LGBT protections.

With roughly 500,000 athletes across all sports and divisions, the NCAA represents people of all different races, nationalities and sexual orientations. The association feels it wouldn't be doing its duty by supporting states with discriminatory laws.

"The NCAA looked at those things and said, how can we justify spending their money in those states," Shaheen said. "What message does it send to not be mindful, if we're obligating them to go to an area where they're unwelcome?"