Originally, Duke and North Carolina would have played one or two early-round games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament starting Thursday in Greensboro, N.C., before a ton of home-state fans. But not this year, thanks to the anti-LGBT state law, HB2.
Instead of Greensboro, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels will play games in Greenville, S.C. A trip for fans of either team will grow from about 50 miles had the games stayed in Greensboro to now about 235 miles in Greenville.
College basketball is practically a state religion in North Carolina, so the loss of the games hurts the state’s collective self-esteem and pocketbooks. The loss of the first- and second-round games this weekend is expected to cost Greensboro $14.5 million, according to a report in Sports Illustrated. And it’s all thanks to HB2, the “bathroom bill” that discriminates against transgender people and also removes other protections for LGBT people.
The NCAA last year removed all championship events from North Carolina and so far efforts in the state legislature to repeal it have stalled. This is all as the NCAA is deciding where to place future events, with April 18 as a key deadline for many events through 2022. From the Charlotte Observer:
ACC Commissioner John Swofford said last week the league is making contingency plans for other venues. Charlotte has been scheduled to host the ACC basketball tournament in 2019. It was scheduled to return to Greensboro in 2020.
“We’ve done some groundwork,” Swofford told the (Raleigh) News & Observer last week. “We would be remiss if we didn’t. This tournament takes up a week at a venue. Venues get booked. The longer we would wait the fewer places we would have available to us. Just from a practical standpoint, we don’t have any choice right now.”
Kim Strable, the president of the Greensboro Sports Council, told Sports Illustrated that losing the tournament games was akin to a tornado. SI “The tornado actually hit our town and blew up stuff that is meaningful to us,” Strable said. “We lost some history and relationships here. We don’t know if this is all there is or if there’s more to come.”
North Carolina coach Roy Williams called HB2 “stupid” and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said it was “embarrassing.” But their voices haven’t mattered much as the state GOP-led legislature has dragged its feet on repealing HB2. If the law stays on the books, it might be a while before NCAA tournament basketball comes back to North Carolina.