When the NBA announced it was going to reward North Carolina for having a state law that mandated discrimination against LGBTQ people, virtually everyone in the community opposed the move. And for good reason.
This weekend the NBA brought its All-Star Game to Charlotte despite the opposition of every community leader. For his part, commissioner Adam Silver did little in his press conference Saturday to allay fears of many LGBTQ people that the NBA front office had turned its back on the community. While acknowledging publicly that the community didn’t approve of the NBA’s return to Charlotte, he offered this nonsense:
“But I also felt from a league standpoint it was important, and as part of our core values, to work with people and ultimately to move forward with the community.”
Whatever that means.
Still, some of the league’s members made it clear that they were there in North Carolina this weekend to make positive advances for the LGBTQ community.
When the then-governor of North Carolina signed the anti-LGBTQ HB2 bill, Golden State Warriors COO and President Rick Welts went to work making sure the NBA pulled its All-Star Game out of the state. It worked, and the NBA was lauded for standing by the community. That move was in large part because Welts, an out gay man and one of the architects of the modern day All-Star Game, pushed for the move.
Yet the league brought the game back to the state after it adjusted (but did not repeal or defang) its anti-LGBTQ law. According to USA Today, Welts was torn until recently about attending. He apparently decided to attend the weekend in the state he asked to not host it with the caveat that he would be able to speak to Governor Roy Cooper and other local dignitaries.
Welts’ move to attend helped generate conversations, and having the league’s most powerful openly gay executive — and a Pro Basketball Hall of Famer — present for the weekend couldn’t hurt.
Others associated with the league also attended the weekend to do good. Jason Collins was there in Charlotte working with NBA Cares. Having the presence of the league’s only player to play openly as a gay man is important as visibility matters. If the league was going to be there in North Carolina, might as well make the most of it and Collins’ presence helped do that.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Reggie Bullock was also there, making connections with local LGBTQ youth, among others. Bullock is one of the very few professional athletes to make LGBTQ issues a top priority, after his transgender sister, Mia Henderson, was murdered.