The only thing the National Basketball Association did on Friday was leave the City of Charlotte totally confused. On one hand, Commissioner Adam Silver said his league had no intentions of pulling the 2017 All Star Game out of the Queen City, and then about 5:00 p.m. the Executive VP of Communications, Mike Bass, clarified what Silver said. Or did he?
Silver has done a wonderful job running the NBA since taking over for David Stern, but in one day he seems to have created a kind of stir inside their Park Avenue office.
“It would be easy to say we’re moving it,” Silver said. “We feel there’s a constructive role for the league to play. If we announce we’re moving it now, what’s the incentive to change the law?”
Then this came from Bass within a few hours:
“During a media availability earlier today following the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting, Commissioner Adam Silver clarified that the NBA remains deeply concerned about its ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina, in light of recent legislation that discriminates against the LGBT community. At no time did Adam affirm that the league would not move the All-Star Game; rather he stressed repeatedly that the legislation is problematic, that we feel it is best to engage with the community to work towards a solution, that change is needed and we are hopeful that it will occur.”
Silver seems to be playing a card used by some entertainers who will go ahead with planned concerts, etc., while donating the proceeds to LGBTQ causes in hopes of overturning the controversial law, otherwise known as HB2. Unfortunately, there have been more events canceled than are listed to go forward.
No single event scheduled for 2017, with maybe the exception of NASCAR races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, would have the kind of economic impact the All Star Game and related activities would have. Silver took the easy way out by saying the NBA would work toward overturning HB2 and any executive action associated with it.
Charlotte is a progressive city. It has far surpassed North Carolina, as a whole, on social issues and it would be hit hardest should the game be moved. The state’s largest city didn’t deserve to be in the spotlight caused by closed-minded legislators who will stand their ground no matter how much money entertainers, or even the NBA, throw at them in the attempt to reverse a law that legalizes discrimination.
Silver gave lip service to the LGBTQ community today. He had a chance to make a statement that would be heard not just in the sports world, but in every state house who considers such legislation. To borrow a baseball phrase, he was thrown a hittable fat pitch, and he whiffed.
Now Bass has done some clarifying, however, the kind of “we will not pull the game, for now” stance is vague at best. The NBA, Silver in particular, does not understand that HB2 is not going to be overturned any time soon. The rapidness in which it was passed and being signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory proves those backing it are dug in for a long fight. Or until they get booted from office and even that is no guarantee.
Charlotte is on the right side of history; North Carolina is not and therein lies the problem for the Queen City. Mayor Jennifer Roberts would love to slam McCrory every which way she can only she knows who controls the purse strings. She has softened her stance against the governor to protect her city.
Even if All Star Weekend happens, should HB2 still be on the books Charlotte becomes national news for the potential of protests, or worse. That is not how you try to get major companies to relocate here. That is not how you entice the best and most talented workers to move here. The politicians in Raleigh don’t seem to care because with all the concerts canceled, businesses pulling back on commitments, and downright disgust from many states, the silence from the state’s capital is deafening.
For whatever reason, Silver said there was no vote to pull the game at Friday’s scheduled Board of Governors meeting. He should have insisted on unanimity to seek a new location for the game with the stipulation that Charlotte would get it back should the law be changed. He didn’t and we are all stuck in limbo because of the mixed messages being sent out by the NBA.
Charlotte will be hurt as the host city. The Hornets will be hurt as the host team. That is the cost of being in a state determined to live other people’s lives. HB2 is by far the most discriminatory law in the country and the NBA had a chance to lead in the fight for equal rights. They didn’t and we are all losers for it.
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