NCAA decision on discrimination raises concerns in North Carolina

NCAA Tournament at PNC Arena

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina leaders are raising concerns after the NCAA Board of Governors on Wednesday adopted an anti-discrimination measure that would affect the way the governing body evaluates bids to host sporting events.

The NCAA said the decision came during the board’s quarterly meeting in Indianapolis. In a news release, the NCAA said it requires sites that are hosting events or bidding on them “to demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination.”

The NCAA said the decision follows actions of legislatures in several states. While the NCAA didn’t specify which states, Mississippi and North Carolina have recently passed laws that critics say can allow discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, told CBS North Carolina, “Losing big tournaments or big conventions really hits Charlotte hard.”

Cotham said the NCAA announcement “should be a strong message to the Republican leadership that there’s a lot at stake from House Bill 2.”

Greensboro is scheduled to host the first round of NCAA Tournament play in 2017.

The NCAA announcement, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue said, “is a subtle way of saying that House Bill 2 has run its course and it’s time that you do something about it.”

But House Speaker Tim Moore, a key Republican leader, disagreed.

“North Carolina is discrimination free,” Moore told CBS North Carolina. “Unfortunately, North Carolina is weather an unfair attack from a lot of out-of-state companies, individuals and activists that frankly are painting North Carolina in a false light.”

Moore added, “I hope the NCAA will actually take some time, read the bill, and see that this bill is in no way discriminatory.”

A new bill in the North Carolina House to repeal House Bill 2 has been referred to a committee. Senate leader Phil Berger has said he is not in favor of repealing House Bill 2, but another key Senator, Tom Apodoca, has said the state should consider a referendum on the matter.

The NCAA release said the requirement is being integrated into a process that covers everything from access to people with disabilities to practice facilities.

“The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds,” board chairman and Kansas State president Kirk Schulz said in a statement. “So it is important that we assure that community … will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.”

The NCAA haven’t allowed championship events in states where governments fly the Confederate battle flag since 2001, as well as for blocking schools from hosting if they use “abusive or offensive” Native American imagery or mascots.

Earlier this month, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill that allows government workers, religious groups and some private businesses to cite religious beliefs to deny services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. It goes into effect July 1.

In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill in March that prevents local governments from passing their own anti-discrimination rules covering the use of public accommodations. That came in response to Charlotte leaders approving a measure that allowed transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity.

But the North Carolina law blocks local and state protections for LGBT people. It also takes away people’s ability to use state law to sue over workplace discrimination. The new law has led to a public and business backlash, including protests and arrests at the legislature this week.

North Carolina has been a regular host to the first weekend of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and is scheduled to host in 2017 and 2018.

CBS North Carolina reporter Beau Minnick and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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