RALEIGH, N.C. — The NCAA awarded coveted men’s basketball tournament games and other events to North Carolina, effectively ending a boycott that helped force the state to repeal parts of a law that limited protections for LGBT people.
The governing body announced decisions Tuesday for events through 2022, two weeks after the NCAA said it had “reluctantly” agreed to consider North Carolina again for hosting duties. It had stripped North Carolina of seven championship events for the past sports season – including opening-weekend men’s basketball tournament games – and said it could relocate more events if there wasn’t a change in the “bathroom bill.”
The list of events included men’s basketball tournament opening-weekend games in Greensboro in 2020 and Raleigh in 2021, as well as a women’s basketball tournament regional in Greensboro in 2019. In addition, the College Cup Division I championship rounds for men’s soccer and women’s soccer will alternate years in Cary from 2018-21, and the Division I women’s field hockey championship will be held in Winston-Salem in 2019.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed a compromise bill March 30 while saying it wasn’t a perfect solution. The compromise was reached days after the NCAA said the state was down to its final days to get something done about the law.
“I think it’s important for our economy, and it’s important for Tuesday before the NCAA announcement. “The NCAA also believes North Carolina has more work to do and we look forward to working with them. I think for sure they’ll bring some of their championships here. I think they value North Carolina and want to be here, and we’ll look forward to what they say.”
LGBT rights groups have said the compromise bill doesn’t go far enough, and criticized the NCAA’s decision to return to North Carolina.
“North Carolina’s new law does nothing to guarantee that LGBT people will be protected from discrimination,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project. “When the NCAA originally withdrew events from North Carolina, they did so because they claimed to care about ‘fairness and inclusion’ for college athletes and fans. It’s a shame to see that those concerns have already fallen by the wayside.”
The NCAA president, Mark Emmert, said at the Final Four that he was pleased the state had passed a new law despite “very difficult” politics. But the NCAA ultimately offered a lukewarm endorsement of the compromise measure days later, saying the new law met “minimal” requirements to allow NCAA back into consideration for future events.
It stated events already awarded to North Carolina for the 2017-18 sports season – including men’s basketball tournament games in Charlotte – would remain in place.