Commentary

Another bitter HB2 reminder today as NCAA hoops tourney starts in South Carolina

NCAA logoSouth Carolina is a fine place with many fine people, but let’s be honest: North Carolina losing out to the Palmetto state on a regular basis in the economic development and major events worlds makes about as much sense as the Tar Heels losing on an annual basis to Clemson or the University of South Carolina in basketball. It’s an assault on the basic order of the universe and something even the folks in South Carolina don’t really expect to happen or seem to feel quite right about.

Amazingly, however, that’s what’s happening now as HB2 approaches its one-year anniversary. Today is another bitter reminder of our new reality as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament — an event that’s as synonymous with North Carolina as any other state in the union — gets underway south of the border. Luke DeCock of Raleigh’s News & Observer explains:

“If any state knows how North Carolina feels right now, it’s right next door. South Carolina spent 14 years in NCAA limbo, prohibited from hosting NCAA neutral-site championships as long as the Confederate flag flew on the capital grounds. It came down in July 2015, less than a year before House Bill 2 put North Carolina in the same position.

In Greenville, S.C., where North Carolina and Duke will play this week instead of Greensboro, there’s a definite sense of opportunity, with North Carolina potentially excluded from six years of NCAA events unless HB2 is repealed in the next few days. There’s also sympathy.

‘I hate it for North Carolina,’ said Robin Wright, the senior sports manager at Visit Greenville SC. ‘I hate it for all you guys. I really do.’

But when the NBA pulled its All-Star Game out of Charlotte in July, Wright went ahead and blocked hotel rooms for this week, just in case the NCAA followed suit – which it did, two months later.

Wright’s foresight played a key role in Greenville landing the subregional when the NCAA moved it and six other 2016-17 neutral-site events out of North Carolina in September because of HB2, which prevents cities and counties from enacting anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The ACC quickly followed suit.

As repeal efforts stagnate, and as the NCAA’s April 18 date to announce championship sites in 2018-19 through 2021-22 looms – already postponed from December to give North Carolina more time – the possibility that North Carolina could be out of the NCAA and ACC picture for six years is increasingly likely, with events for 2017-18 likely to be yanked at or around the same time.”

DeCock goes on to explain that the South Carolina folks are now working hard, understandably, to capitalize on North Carolina’s self-inflicted wound by expanding their bids and to make the NCAA events they’ve already snatched big successes. He concludes this way:
“If Greenville, Furman and the Southern Conference pull this off with aplomb, and HB2 is still on the books on the other side of the border, it might be more than six years before the NCAA tournament returns to North Carolina.”
Meanwhile, Senator Phil Berger and the other HB2 true believers fiddle while their state’s image/brand burns around them.

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