Six months after the N.C. General Assembly enacted House Bill 2 — regulating access to public restrooms with respect to gender — the state of North Carolina has been hit with two business decisions that go to the heart of collegiate athletics.
On Monday, the NCAA withdrew seven championship events scheduled to be held in the state during this academic year. Three of the events are Division I championships, including the early rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament games, which were to be held in Greensboro in March. The other Division I events are the 2016 women’s soccer championship, the 2017 women’s golf championship regional and the 2017 women’s lacrosse championship.
Two days later, the ACC took similar action in protest of HB2, announcing that eight neutral-site league championships that had been scheduled to be held in North Carolina in 2016-17 — including the conference championship in football — would be held elsewhere.
“The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford ’71. “Today’s decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships.”
Other ACC championships that are being relocated involve women’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, and baseball. The ACC’s statement is available online.
UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt and N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson issued a joint response:
“We appreciate the Council of Presidents’ reaffirmation of the ACC’s strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as the decision to keep ACC championship contests on our campuses. However, we regret today’s decision will negatively affect many North Carolinians, especially in the affected host communities.
“UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State remain steadfast in our commitment to welcoming and supporting all people. Our policies protect students, faculty and staff from discrimination, regardless of age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status. As such, we remain dedicated to providing and promoting equal opportunity and non-discrimination to everyone who participates in athletic events on our campuses.”
UNC Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham also released a statement: “Respecting diversity and being an inclusive campus for students, faculty, staff and our guests is paramount at Carolina. The Atlantic Coast Conference shares those aspirations to be fair and welcoming to people of all backgrounds. We have great respect for the NCAA‘s and ACC’s decisions and are glad that the on-campus championships will remain in place. However, we are disappointed that 10 ACC neutral-site events will be moved out of state because of the negative effects those decisions have on student-athletes, fans and numerous host communities. We are hopeful that these issues are resolved quickly and the championship events are able to return to our state.”
One of the provisions of HB2 requires people in government facilities — including public schools and colleges — to use restrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. A federal judge recently barred the UNC System from enforcing HB2’s restroom provision for three transgender plaintiffs.
The legislation has been highly divisive, both within the state and elsewhere. Five states and a number of cities have enacted bans on publicly funded travel to North Carolina; several corporate expansion plans have been revoked and CEOs of dozens of corporations have spoken out against the law; and artists and entertainers have canceled appearances or used their time on N.C. stages to voice their opposition.
In a message to the campus community as the fall semester began, Folt said UNC soon would have close to 300 gender-neutral restrooms. She said new signage identifying the restrooms “follows federal government recommendations and are similar to signs used around the world.”
Folt reiterated that “[w]e have long said that the University has not and will not be taking steps to enforce HB2. As reflected in long-standing University policy, we do not discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, and we are fully committed to being open and welcoming to individuals of all backgrounds.” She and the UNC System’s other chancellors have the backing of system President Margaret Spellings on the enforcement issue. HB2 was passed without enforcement provisions.
A map showing locations of gender-neutral restrooms is at alumni.unc.edu/bathroomsmap. The “limited access” restrooms are located where public access is limited, primarily residence halls.