In March when North Carolina legislators passed an anti-LGBT law requiring transgender North Carolinians to use public restrooms according to whatever gender is originally on their birth certificate, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took somewhat of a hard stance and said, because of the legislation’s inherent discrimination, the NBA and its owners would consider moving the All-Star game slated to be in Charlotte, N.C. next season.
Well, that was fun while it lasted. During owner’s meetings prior to the start of the playoffs, NBA owners discussed all league business. What wasn’t among their discussions, however, was potentially moving the All-Star game
According to CBS Sports’ Ken Berger, Silver remained hard on his stance that the law is problematic, but said he’d rather maintain an open dialogue and engage with legislators to move toward change.
Silver: “The best approach for the league is constructive engagement toward change.”
— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) April 15, 2016
Obviously, this does not close the door to moving the All-Star game, which six senators from different states have requested Silver do. Silver backed off of his stance of moving the game a bit with his latest comments.
Although it’s disappointing, Silver did not really have many options in this situation.
We’ll get into that, but first, lets dissect this bill.
According to the bill, which you can read here, the piece was drafted to create “consistency in regulation of employment and public accommodations.” In other words, the bill is requiring businesses, educational facilities, recreational facilities and other public facilities to mandate people use labeled bathrooms based on their biological gender.
Upon special request, agencies may make special exceptions under this law such as single-use bathrooms for individuals rather than multi-use bathrooms. However, under no circumstances, according to this law, may a trans person use a bathroom of the sex opposite of their biological gender.
Despite North Carolina legislator’s assertions otherwise, the addition of this language in the bill is discriminatory by nature. It essentially stigmatizes those in the trans community and puts them in a dangerous, uncomfortable situation where an unnecessary spotlight shines on someone who never asked for it.
With the push back from the public around the nation on the bill, some legislators from North Carolina have stated they’d be willing to vote for a repeal on the law. N.C. House Democrat representative Larry Bell said, during an NPR interview, he’d be willing to vote to repeal it and other representatives would follow suit.
I think with the outcry, that is a possibility. I think a lot of people, since they were rushed into it, would probably reconsider and probably say we don’t need the bill at all. I mean, which is my position. I don’t think we needed it at all.
So, the public has spoken. And it’s obvious there’s a push against this bill. Along with the NBA, corporations like Pepsi, stars like Bruce Springsteen and many other notable figures have made statements against the bill and have cried out for inclusiveness.
And they’re right to do so. There’s no place for discrimination, in any shape or form, in America. This bill is problematic, as Silver said, and needs to be repealed. Beneath the layers of the legislation this is just another way for business owners to keep LGBT patrons and employees from using their facilities.
Silver isn’t the commissioner for those who want to separate sports and politics. He played an influential role in removing Donald Sterling, former Los Angeles Clippers’ owner and noted racist, from his ownership stake of the team. He also laid the hammer down on Danny Ferry, former Atlanta Hawks general manager, for just reading a racist scouting report on Luol Deng.
Clearly, Silver and the NBA have set a tone of inclusion. Intolerance hasn’t been tolerated in the NBA up until this point. And Silver did the absolute right thing by taking a stance against N.C.’s HB-2 and saying he’d consider moving the game.
But this probably is not a fight Silver can win just by simply moving an exhibition game. Sure, moving the All-Star game is a noble stance. But it’s not quite that simple. Silver said as much during Saturday night’s playoff opening night contest between the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Well, first of all we have 10 months before the All-Star game takes place in Charlotte. And it’s more complicated for us than a concert, for example.
And we have a team in Charlotte, North Carolina. And I’m not even sure what statement we would be making by, in essence, cutting and running now, and leaving our team in Charlotte. And so, for us, with a team in Charlotte, we want to work with the business community and with elected officials, frankly, to change the law.
But we didn’t think it would be productive to set ultimatums. So, we want to work, we want to engage with the people of North Carolina. And work towards moving away from what is problematic right now for the league.
The door is still open to moving the game. But at this point, it seems like it a bit unlikely. It would be noble, and frankly, the right thing to do for Silver to move the game. Tons of cities would be willing to host the game on the fly. They could even host in Los Angeles one year head of schedule.
Silver’s approach here is thorough and meticulous. So what if he moves the game? If the Charlotte Hornets are still playing in North Carolina, what has he really done? Sure, he’s made a grand statement by moving the game, but Charlotte will still rake in NBA dollars from the professional basketball team playing in town.
The NBA is anchored to the city and the state by the team. So what is the solution here? Moving the Hornets as well? Over one bill? I doubt Michael Jordan, a man who once noted that “Republicans buy shoes, too” when asked about a political endorsement, would be willing to pack up and leave his home state where his money is anchored just for this piece. As awful as the bill is, it’s unlikely things would get to that point.
And lets not hesitate to think about how this affects North Carolina citizens, business owners and employees. Many people in the state disagree with the foundation of the bill and citizens did not vote on it. Should the game be moved, millions of dollars will be removed from the common man’s pockets, and that’s never a good thing.
But this is what protest is, right? Someone has to pay for the atrocities being done by this bill, and taking commerce away from some entity is normally the prime way to do it. And it’s perfectly fine for people to choose not to engage in the All-Star festivities should the law persist and the game remain unchanged.
But at the end of the day, with as many grand stands as Silver has taken so far in his tenure as the NBA’s commissioner, these owners and this league still bleed capitalism. It’s a shame that this is so, but it’s a reality we must deal with. It’s how people have to survive in this country and the NBA is no different.
Silver said he does not want to deal with ultimatums here, but should the law persist that is exactly what he’d be dealing with. Taking a hard stance here was the right thing to do, but Silver is also doing the right thing by exercising patience with the law and giving the state time to change things.
Should they not? Silver has to take action. But crossing that bridge at the right time is important. Change does not come overnight and bigotry does not dissolve from punishment alone. With his comments, Silver clearly understands this and, hopefully, the NBA can play its part in resolving this situation.