Last year as the HB2 debate in North Carolina took center stage it seemed so many came to the aid of the LGBT community. Bruce Springsteen canceled a few shows the day before he was supposed to perform. Several states banned non-essential travel to the state. And maybe the biggest statement of all, the NCAA pulled championships out of North Carolina.
Certainly the biggest impact of all this was the loss of college basketball events. Duke was forced to find a new opponent after SUNY Albany refused to travel to Durham and forced to play in South Carolina during the NCAA tournament rather then Greensboro.
Many in the LGBT community applauded the NCAA for their efforts of inclusion. LGBT organizations gave them awards and, to the casual observer, it seemed that all was well.
However, the NCAA thrives on perception, not reality. A host of schools cloaked under the umbrella of “Christian institutions” have athletes and coaches sign agreements forbidding them from being gay. Schools like BYU prohibit same-sex relationships on campus. To me, this is not inclusion and the LGBT community should not be thanking the NCAA for anything.
During the religious freedom bill fight in Indiana I was invited to NCAA headquarters. This was during the 2015 Final Four in Indiana. I asked an NCAA leader, not far down from Mark Emmert, how they can allow institutions to openly discriminate.
The response: “We need to give our institutions autonomy.” I was floored by the response, which essentially changed my view on the organization.
I’ve watched people I respect immensely work with the NCAA. They host summits, think tanks, and conferences to help change culture. While these meetings have helped, it makes the NCAA look good, while they allow discrimination.
The lawmakers in North Carolina have turned their back on the LGBT community. Basketball proved bigger than discrimination. These elected officials receiving free tickets to the ACC and NCAA tournament were way bigger then an LGBT kid being told they are “less-than.”
It disgusts me that the NCAA has gone along.
The LGBT community, which the organization supposedly embraces, told them this HB2 replacement was not okay. They disregarded what we said and caved to the pressure for basketball. My dear friend Chris Mosier, a world -renowned trans athlete told them this was wrong and they didn’t listen. The NCAA is not concerned with the LGBT community, it’s concerns are making money for its institutions at all costs.
To my LGBT colleagues and organizations: Continue to believe that the NCAA cares. Attend think tanks and speak at conferences knowing that in the end, the organizational leaders will say “great job” and, behind closed doors, not listen to a word that we say.
Dollars and politics will rule the day.
I love basketball as much as anyone in the state of North Carolina. It literally is my life. I feel so lucky to be in the gym daily, with my players while watching them grow enjoying the game that we love.
I would give it up tomorrow to stop discrimination against my community. It’s a shame that lawmakers in North Carolina along with their friends at the NCAA chose a game over inclusion for all people.
Unfortunately, I’m not surprised.
Anthony Nicodemo is the boys basketball coach at Saunders High School in Yonkers, N.Y. He is on Facebook, and on Twitter @CoachNicodemo.