Article Sep 16, 2016

Fighting a phony war: The NCAA, the ACC, and North Carolina

North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” is, once again, making headlines. News broke this week that the NCAA would penalize the state of North Carolina by relocating seven of its championship events to other states for the 2016-2017 academic year. In the wake of this decision, the ACC also announced that it “will relocate all neutral site championships” during the same period. At the center of this controversy is House Bill 2, legislation passed by the North Carolina General Assembly which requires citizens to use public restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to their biological sex.

North Carolina has faced considerable outrage and backlash since HB2 was passed in late March. Branded by the Human Rights Campaign as “extraordinarily harsh” and “anti-LGBT,” the bill has also resulted in protests and boycotts of the state by artists, businesses and cities across the United States. Over the summer, under the direction of commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA announced it would pull the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte. The controversy surrounding HB2 has truly created a public relations nightmare. The fallout has taken a significant economic toll on the state, and the scenario is only further compounded by these decisions from the NCAA and ACC.   

But despite the outrage and indignation, supporters of HB2, including Governor Pat McCrory and lawmakers who crafted the legislation, are holding their ground. And they should be applauded for doing so.

The General Assembly passed HB2 in a special session which was convened for the purpose of prohibiting a critically flawed local ordinance from taking effect. In the weeks prior to the passage of HB2, the city council in Charlotte, NC adopted an ordinance that would have needlessly and intentionally exposed both residents and visitors of the city to considerable privacy and safety concerns. Though the ordinance was purportedly taken up by the city council in an effort to expand protections for LGBT persons, in actuality, it took the drastic step of eliminating the fundamental right to privacy that one would expect when entering a restroom or locker room.

The truth is that North Carolina is being ridiculed for taking a stand against the reckless and aggressive actions of a powerful LGBT lobby. The progressive and leftist groups fueling this outrage are seeking to monetize this controversy in order to win an election. Charlotte adopted an ordinance that would have allowed any person to enter any public bathroom or changing facility for any reason; no questions asked. That is a pathetic excuse for public policy. The ACC and the NCAA are but the latest pawns to step forward to fight in service to a phony cause. There is no shame in standing up for women and children; and further, there is no shame for holding fast to the truth that men and women are biologically distinct.

The acrimony notwithstanding, HB2 was written to ensure that vulnerable persons—like women and children—would not become easy targets for predators. It is common sense legislation intended to accomplish the first role of government, securing the rights of its citizens. To be very clear: recognizing that the Charlotte ordinance exposed women and children to the threat of predators is in no way the same as implying that transgender persons present such a threat. HB2 upholds a commonsense measure that makes privacy concerns dependent on biological sex, and not the elusive category “gender identity.” HB2 was enacted to close a dangerous loophole in an ordinance that was tragically inadequate. Moreover, the protest seems problematic since HB2 applies only to government buildings. This means that private businesses are free to decide their own privacy policies.

But the NCAA and the ACC have other concerns. In the midst of a cultural revolution, these organizations cannot appear to be standing on the sidelines. So instead they have thoughtlessly attempted to coerce North Carolina and its lawmakers to repeal a law based on the very same principle by which they themselves are organized. Namely, that men and women are different. While North Carolina is maligned for being bigoted and backward, it is impossible to miss the fact that neither the NCAA, nor the ACC, have abandoned the practice of dividing athletic competitions according to gender. But beyond the unbelievable hypocrisy, there is good reason not to do so.

Men and women are different; to recognize that insults no one and is not “anti” anything. And yes, we now live in a world where many individuals reject or defy the traditional, binary distinctions when it comes to gender. There is no doubt that transgenderism presents new questions about things like restrooms and public accommodations. But we should seek out thoughtful answers to these questions, instead of rushing to pass bad legislation in the name of social progress. And more than that, otherwise respectable organizations should refrain from leveraging their resources to engage on issues of which they are clearly ill-informed.

The future of this controversy remains uncertain. Regardless of the outcome, it is most regrettable that the NCAA and the ACC have chosen to take these punitive measures against the state of North Carolina. HB2 is good legislation that protects the vulnerable. But this debate isn’t about policy, it is about progress. And that is the problem.