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North Carolina leaders criticize NBA for pulling All-Star Game over bathroom bill

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

NEW YORK CITY, July 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The National Basketball Association (NBA) has officially reneged on its contract to play its 2017 All-Star Game at Time Warner Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, because the state won't allow men in women’s and girls' bathrooms.

In March, the North Carolina legislature passed a gender-specific bathroom law, HB2, designed to ensure that young girls aren't forced to shower and change in the presence of men in public facilities.

Commissioner Adam Silver had threatened the state of North Carolina and the city of Charlotte with moving the lucrative All-Star Game, contracted for 2017 in Charlotte, if state legislators did not rescind the law.

The professional basketball league announced Thursday that it is canceling its 2017 "weeklong schedule of All-Star events and activities" in Charlotte because "we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2."

The move will cost North Carolinians an estimated $100 million. To the state’s residents, however, the issue is not about money.

“What is happening in North Carolina is bigger than a basketball game,” Jim Quick of the North Carolina Value Coalition warned in a statement to LifeSiteNews. “Lt. Governor Dan Forest was right when he said, ‘A sovereign state is being blackmailed by a private business, the NBA, who is being threatened by a national LGBT lobbying effort, all to force North Carolina to open female restrooms, showers and locker rooms up to men. North Carolina will never value a dollar over a woman's or child's safety and security.’”

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory lashed out at "the sports and entertainment elite" and "the liberal media" for misrepresenting his state's bathroom privacy law and for "maligning" its citizens "simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present."

After noting that 21 other states have joined his to legally oppose the Obama Administration's transgender bathroom mandate, McCrory said radical activists should not seek to bully citizens into an agenda against the best interests of their children.

"Left-wing special interest groups have no moral authority to try and intimidate the large majority of American parents who agree in common-sense bathroom and shower privacy for our children."

The governor warned citizens of other states that big business has become the enforcer of a gay agenda. "American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”

Other North Carolina politicians have gone on record criticizing the NBA's decision to pull the 2017 All-Star Game. Republican Senator Phil Berger said, “The need for HB2 became crystal clear earlier this month, just steps away from the NBA arena in Charlotte, when a grown man engaged in sexual activity in a women’s public bathroom."

In a potentially explosive revelation, Berger said it was the NBA, and not North Carolina legislators, who pulled out of negotiations — after Silver's summer-long public relations campaign characterizing the NBA as wanting nothing more than to work out a reasonable compromise.

"Lawmakers had several positive conversations with the NBA, attempting to find common ground while keeping grown men out of bathrooms and shower facilities with women and young girls,” Berger said. “But, unfortunately, the NBA withdrew from those discussions."

Quick confirmed to LifeSiteNews that the NBA, after emphasizing it was open to negotiations, left the negotiating table, explaining “The NBA quickly withdrew from … discussions after a leaked copy of their draft compromise drew harsh criticism by The Human Rights Campaign, Equality NC and corporate elites who, in turn, pressured the league to abandon compromise in support of a full repeal of HB2.”

Quick noted that a political timetable was also in play. Silver had given North Carolina until the end of the summer to work out a solution, so why pull out halfway?  “In 10 days, a federal judge is set to rule on halting HB2,” Quick explained, “so it appears the league's oddly timed announcement was simply politically motivated.”

“Instead of waiting until the end of the summer, Silver released the announcement on the evening Donald Trump was set to accept the Republican Nomination, while also delivering an economic hit in a tight North Carolina gubernatorial election in the fall.”

Quick added, “Both Clinton and Trump are scheduled for campaign stops in Charlotte next week.”

Despite Silver's vow to the contrary, Berger said that in the end, the NBA issued an "all- or-nothing" ultimatum. That, he said, was unacceptable. "The suggestion that state leaders should abandon our moral obligation to protect our constituents in order to keep one exhibition basketball game is absurd, and shows a clear contrast in values.”

North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger pointed to the NBA's willingness to do business with countries that oppress women, persecute religious minorities and violate human rights, and yet refuse to do business with American states that seek to protect women, religious minorities, and human rights.

“Last week, I met with constituents from China who outlined the Chinese government practice of forcefully harvesting vital organs as part of their oppression of religious minorities. Meanwhile, the NBA will start selling tickets for preseason games in China next week," Pittenger said. "Is the NBA implying China’s abhorrent violation of basic human rights is acceptable, but North Carolina saying men shouldn’t use the girls’ locker room is a bridge too far?"

"The unmistakable hypocrisy is clear to me," the congressman concluded.

"The NBA has abandoned common sense and put politics ahead of principle," Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Kellie Fiedorek stated in a press release. "The North Carolina privacy law, which protects girls and women from being forced to share locker rooms and showers with men, is completely reasonable. Pulling the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte is unreasonable, and hypocritical.

"If the NBA actually believed that there is no difference between men and women, it would merge its two leagues. Twenty years ago, the NBA recognized the innate and obvious biological differences between men and women when it created the WNBA.  Today, the NBA hopes no one notices that it properly maintains separate leagues for men and women, while it opposes the commonsense law that simply protected the dignity interests and privacy rights of North Carolinians."

NBA officials have said the league is turning its attention to New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center for the 2017 All-Star Game. However, that venue is under the same gender-specific bathroom policy as Charlotte.

"Twenty-three other states explicitly support the freedom of states to set their own policies and laws regarding locker rooms and restrooms," Fiedorek continued.  "Even New Orleans, the alternative city often mentioned as a host for next year's All-Star Game, allows for 'separate bathroom, restroom, shower or similar facilities for males and females' in its local ordinance."

"The NBA should stick to what it does best," Fiedorek concluded, "showcasing the world's greatest professional athletes and serving its diverse fan base, rather than showcasing its amateur political posturing and serving the narrow-minded power elite."

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of NC Values Coalition (NCVC), responded to the NBA announcement with "disappointment" for the league giving in to “bullying by radical left-wing groups."

"The League has decided that advancing a political agenda that embraces allowing grown men into the bathrooms and showers of young girls is more important than protecting the privacy and safety of their fans," the pro-family leader charged.

Fitzgerald called on the NBA to reimburse the city of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina for contractual expenses. "We would expect the league to reimburse the city and its partners for the taxpayer funds that have been used to renovate Time Warner Arena and plan for the 2017 NBA All-Star game, since the city and state have honored their commitment to the NBA.”

Fitzgerald also pointed out, as did Fiedorek, that the alternative venue in Louisiana has the same "gender discriminatory" bathroom policy as the boycotted Charlotte venue.  Furthermore, Louisiana has joined a multi-state coalition to defend such policies by states nationwide.

"It is ironic that the NBA would choose to relocate their All-Star Game to the state of Louisiana, since last month the state joined North Carolina and 22 other states to stop President Obama’s transgender bathroom directive granting boys access into girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities in schools and universities," Fitzgerald said.

The NCVC director also noted the basketball league's "hypocrisy at its worst" for, on the one hand, creating a separate women's league, while on the other hand, economically blackmailing an entire state for having separate women's facilities. She said the NBA is using "bullying and deceitful tactics" to "compromise (women's) privacy and safety in the stadiums in which their leagues play."

"The NBA should be ashamed of itself for using North Carolina — particularly its young girls—as a political pawn for an out-of-touch agenda that compromises both dignity interests and privacy rights," Fitzgerald said.

She called attention to the NBA encouraging teams to invest more in family-friendly promotions, and the incongruity of its latest decision with seeking to attract families to its games. ''Today’s decision to force men and women into the same bathroom facilities demonstrates that the league is abandoning their pro-family policies in favor of big business sponsorship dollars," she said.

"Families can no longer look to the National Basketball Association as a pro-family organization."

The NBA announcement offered a fig leaf to Charlotte, saying it hopes to reschedule the All-Star Game in 2019, "provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter." In other words, if the state of North Carolina abandons its law providing privacy protections for women and girls, it would consider returning.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who supports the LGBTQ agenda, tweeted, "Thank you @NBA & our beloved Charlotte Hornets for being such champions of equality @hornets. Grateful for 2019 AllStar Game if HB2 changes."

Some of the nation's largest corporations have economically boycotted North Carolina in attempts to pressure the state to integrate its public toilets and showers.  More than 200 CEOs and business executives signed a statement condemning the privacy law.  Even the mainstream media have not-so-subtly weighed into the controversy, with supposedly journalistically neutral media such as USA Today matter-of-factly reporting that the North Carolina law is "discriminatory."

Charlotte Hornets owner and basketball great Michael Jordan said he was "disappointed" in the NBA's decision, and he hoped things will work out in 2019.

Hornets co-owner Felix Sabates strongly supports the North Carolina law. "What is wrong with a person using a bathroom provided for the sex they were born with?” he rhetorically asked. “If you want to change your gender, so be it, we are a free county, but don’t force 8-year-old children to be exposed to having to share bathroom facilities with people that don’t share the organs they were born with.”

“This is plain wrong,” Sabates said.  “This could cause irreparable damage to a child who doesn’t understand why she has to see what God did not mean for her to witness.”

“We have some very confused business (leaders) as well as politicians, who frankly have made this a political issue rather then a moral one. SHAME ON THEM,” Sabates concluded.

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