Commentary

Charlotte Observer sportswriter swings and misses with comments about failed HB2 “compromise”

Scott Fowler is a fine sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer and he’s right on the money this morning when he opines that:

“I won’t retrace all the steps this depressing saga has taken, but I would agree with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s recent comment that House Bill 2 is an ’embarrassing’ bill. The way HB2 limits protection for LGBT individuals is a stain on our state. It makes us seem intolerant and foolish.”

Unfortunately, Fowler then goes on in the same column (which is featured on the “front page” of the Observer website) to betray an obvious lack of understanding of the law and the political situation in North Carolina. According to Fowler, both sides in the dispute over HB2 should be ashamed for failing to “compromise.”

“Both sides simply entrenched themselves deep inside their own foxholes. You would think they were trying to negotiate the end of a world war with how impossible so many people made it seem to forge a reasonable compromise. Of course a compromise could have happened.

You can have a backbone and still be able to bend.”

This is nonsense for several reasons.

First off is the matter of the political situation in North Carolina. HB2 was passed by an overwhelmingly Republican legislature and signed by a Republican governor into law in 12 hours. Not only was there no compromise when it was passed; there wasn’t even any discussion with opponents. Raleigh is a long way from Charlotte so Fowler may have missed the fact that essentially all of the power to decide what would happen to HB2 resided with three men — Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and Governor Pat McCrory. The law was their creation and they always held (and still hold) all the cards to decide whether it would be repealed or amended.  To claim that opponents of the law were ever at all responsible for some “failure to compromise” is preposterous.

Second, is the notion that “compromise” was or is even possible. What exactly would that “compromise” look like Scott? About the only thing getting any discussion at all in the waning days of the 2016 legislative session was the milquetoast idea that the matter would be “studied” in the months ahead and that the law would remain on the books, essentially unchanged. What the hell kind of a compromise is that? Apparently, Fowler believes that the opponents of HB2 should, after having been run over multiple times by the authors of the law, have acquiesced to and endorsed a plan that offered little more than a promise to discuss the matter until after the All-Star game (i.e. a point in time at which much of the political pressure for change would have evaporated). If Fowler thinks there should have been some “compromise,” he needs to speak up and say exactly what it would/should have entailed.

That Fowler then goes on to quote, unquestioningly, Hornets owner Michael Jordan’s inaccurate assertion that “There was an exhaustive effort from all parties to keep the event in Charlotte” give further evidence that Fowler’s not paying attention. Jordan may want to be nice to everyone involved, but the fact of the matter is that there was no “exhaustive effort” by the authors of HB2 to reach a compromise. Their plan was and remains to keep the law on the books for as long as the possibly can.

The bottom line: Fowler is playing a game here that too many sportswriters are allowed to get away with (though not often on the front page of the news section). He’s purporting to criticize actors in a political/policy debate for not “working things out” (and thereby ruining his fun) without really understanding the details of the issue or the actors involved.

While Fowler’s pain and frustration are certainly understandable (heck, lots of North Carolinians feel that way about the loss of the game), that is, ultimately, the reason for the NBA’s action: to inflict punishment on our state for its outrageous and discriminatory actions via one of the few tools at its disposal. No doubt, many South Africans felt frustrated back in the day when international sports competitions boycotted their country because of apartheid and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. Fortunately, those bodies and others kept up the pressure until change was achieved. It will happen here too — hopefully in time for the 2019 All-Star Game.

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