You see the dunks, the knock-down shooters and the stars. It’s the NBA’s most high profile and flashy weekend. What many forget, however, is what the All-Star game means to New Orleans this year in the first place.
After a name change and rebranding for the Hornets two years ago, Charlotte seemed like the ideal city for the NBA to highlight with the 2017 All-Star game. The stage was set, the plans were announced. Then came HB2.
On Mar. 23, 2016, North Carolina passed a landslide legislation that reverses a Charlotte anti-discrimination ordinance that gave rights and protections to gay and transgender people. The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, or HB2, prevents transgender people from using a public bathroom that does not correspond with their sex assigned at birth.
In an act of defiance of the new law, the NBA moved the game from Charlotte to New Orleans. The league has discussed dismissing the law with state officials, and hopes the game can be played in Charlotte in 2019, given that HB2 is reversed.
The All-Star game move is by far the strongest opposition shown against the Carolina legislation.
“Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand,” said the NBA league office in a statement issued on July 21, 2016. “While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.”
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who was one of the leading signers of the bill, was quick to fire back.
“The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina,” said McCrory in a statement. “Simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present.”
Others in the entertainment industry have followed suit with the NBA in boycotting events in North Carolina. Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato, Pearl Jame, Cirque du Soleil, Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams are some of many notable artists who have canceled plans to perform in North Carolina.
On Feb. 6, the NCAA, in a rare political move, announced North Carolina will not host any March Madness games until 2022 unless HB2 is repealed by the end of month. Back in September, the Atlantic Coastal Conference moved their football championship from North Carolina to Orlando.
Since Adam Silver has taken over as NBA commissioner, the league has continued to become more active on social issues, putting them steps ahead of other leagues like the NFL, MLB and NHL, who have remained relatively neutral politically.
Starting around Christmas, the NBA began producing and airing anti-gun violence PSAs feating some the leagues most notable players. At last year’s ESPYS, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade took the stage to urge athletes to be active socially following a string of high profile mass-shootings in Dallas, Orlando and Baton Rouge. Back in 2014, the NBA chose not to fine players who wore “I can’t breathe” t-shirts before games.
The political actions of the NBA seem to be more morally driven rather than public image driven. Although no change has been made in North Carolina yet, big league sports seem to have a large enough influence to sway political opinions moving forward.