In a stunning turn of events, the NBA will pull the 2017 NBA All Star Game from Charlotte in response to the state’s discriminatory HB2 law. The news, first reported by Yahoo’s The Vertical, signals a new, unprecedented political stance from Adam Silver and the NBA.
North Carolina’s HB2 bill, which targeted bathroom use by transgender individuals, was the source of (much deserved) outcry around the country and especially from within the NBA community. Just recently, Team USA head coach (and, more important to this conversation, North Carolina-based Duke University head coach) Mike Krzyzewski called the bill “embarrassing.”
Adam Silver had already been on record saying that he would move the event if the law was not changed. Even back in April, he said, "We've been, I think, crystal clear that we believe a change in the law is necessary for us to play in the kind of environment that we think is appropriate for a celebratory NBA event, but that we did have some time and that if the view of the people who were allied with us in terms of a change, if their view, the people on the ground in North Carolina, was that the situation would best be served by us not setting a deadline, we would not set a deadline at this time."
However, it seems that deadline has come and gone.
In a move that will surely strike a chord throughout this country as we battle an onrushing tide of homophobia, racism, and xenophobic vitriol, the NBA has purposefully positioned itself on the forefront of change.
It will be very interesting to see how local leaders in Charlotte (which voted against HB2 and is now being punished for the actions—or inactions—of the state’s legislators) respond to Silver’s decision. Seriously, check out this map of who voted “for” and “against.” (Charlotte is in Mecklenberg County)
Already, the city has lost enormous sums of money due to HB2. How much more do they stand to lose now that the NBA has pulled the game?
As of May 2016, @cltchamber stated that the HB2 law has cost Charlotte $285.5 million. That is just one city out of hundreds.— Meighan (@Meiggles) July 21, 2016
Yet another wrinkle in this whole sordid mess is that Charlotte already invested a significant amount of money into their arena to ensure that they would be prepared for the event.
2. Two years ago the city of Charlotte approved a big arena fix spend partly for the All-Star Game they just lost.https://t.co/7hyXsBen6J— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) July 21, 2016
You can’t help but feel bad for the good people of Charlotte who have been caught in the cross-hairs of this whole thing. Not only did Charlotte vote against the bill, but the whole bill was a knee-jerk reaction by the state to punish the city for initially voting in a series of laws that protected transgender peoples’ rights.
Here, watch this:
Through all of this, I can’t help but wonder what Charlotte’s most famous son, Stephen Curry, makes of the law, and of the NBA’s decision. Months ago, he backed away from making any substantive statement on the issue, saying only, "I know the NBA has a stance on equality and incorporating all the beliefs and people from all sorts of backgrounds. [...] It's interesting how that intersection is with the state law and the NBA having an event there. Hopefully, the right things need to happen that the All-Star Game stays in Charlotte, because that would be huge for the city ... just to show what Charlotte's all about, regardless of where you fall on that law. Hopefully they can figure it out and keep it there. I think it's really important for the city of Charlotte. I'm sure we can figure it out."
Now that the NBA has finally made their move, we’ll have to wait and see how Charlotte as a city and how Steph—as the face of that city—both deal with this enormous decision.
It’s no accident, however, that Adam Silver has positioned the NBA at the forefront of the fight for social justice. Through his own actions and words, Silver has encouraged a league where players feel comfortable to use their celebrity to express their political views, provided they used an appropriate platform, such as social media. On July 13th, he said, "I think one of the great things about sports is it does bring people together. Without going too long on this, I think part of the fundamental issue is trust, and I think maybe using basketball, using this platform, we can get people having a very healthy dialogue on these issues.”
Just recently, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony delivered their impassioned plea at the outset of the ESPYS, I got goosebumps.
The four most famous athletes in the world who have publicly spoken out in the name of progress, peace, and non-violence are from the NBA.
The greatest stand you can make is through action. And now, by stripping North Carolina of the league’s signature mid-season spectacle, Silver has proven that he says what he means and he means what he says. First with Donald Sterling’s lifetime ban, and now with this decision, Adam has proved himself a very capable, courageous, and creative leader in the face of turmoil.
Next season’s All Star Game will be an intense, politically charged event, no matter where it is eventually held. The Warriors will potentially be sending four players, as Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant all look to book their tickets to the famed weekend.