NBA chief: ‘No discussion of moving the All-Star Game’ over bathroom law

The National Basketball Association has no plans to move next year’s All-Star Game outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, despite the state’s controversial anti-LGBT law, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced on Friday.

“The law as it now stands is problematic for the league,” Silver said at a news conference in New York. “There was no discussion of moving the All-Star Game. What the view in the room was we should be working towards change in North Carolina.”

Silver said he’s been working closely with the Charlotte Hornets organization and suggested the league would work with the private sector and elected officials to effect change.

“I think the best role for the league to play here is through constructive engagement towards change, not setting deadlines, not making ultimatums but working with the private sector and the government to effect change in North Carolina,” he said.

Silver said the law is a complicated issue for the league because Charlotte passed an ordinance that the state ultimately overruled and questioned what statement it would send for the NBA to move the All-Star Game out of Charlotte, where the franchise plays 41 games a year and will host the Miami Heat in an April 23 playoff game.

“My concern here is that it would be easy, in a way, to grandstand here and announce we are moving the All-Star Game, even though that game is not scheduled to take place for 10 months,” Silver said.

“Ultimately,” he added, “our interest is in conducting a successful All-Star Game in North Carolina and having a team that can play there in a nondiscriminatory environment.”

His announcement comes after a half-dozen senators filed a letter to him Tuesday asking for the 2017 All-Star game to be relocated. The senators alleged that the “disingenuously titled” House bill — “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,” also known as HB2 — that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law last month forces transgender people to use restrooms that conflict with their gender identity.

“Put plainly,” the senators wrote, “HB2 provides businesses, government contractors, hotels, and other institutions with a license to discriminate, and no city council or county government can do a thing about it. This is just wrong.”

The senators pointed to the millions of NBA fans worldwide and diversity of its players, including Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay player in the league two years ago, as it made its case for the NBA to move its All-Star festivities to another city.

“We hold no ill-will towards the people of Charlotte, who passed an antidiscrimination measure that HB2 overturned, nor towards the people of North Carolina,” the senators wrote. “However, we cannot condone nor stand idly by as North Carolina moves to legalize and institutionalize discrimination against the LGBT community. Nor should the NBA allow its premier annual event to be hosted in such a state. Doing so, we believe, would be inconsistent with the NBA’s history and values.”

Amid the growing backlash over HB2, McCrory signed an executive order that expands the state’s employment policy to protect sexual orientation and gender identity on Tuesday. It also urges the state’s General Assembly to modify part of the law to allow the right to sue in state court for discrimination.

The executive action explicitly affirms the right of private businesses to establish their own policies governing the use of their restrooms and locker rooms, in addition to the rights of the private sector and local governments to establish non-discrimination policies for their own employees. But it fails to roll back the limits on which bathrooms transgender people are allowed to use.

The NBA last summer announced Charlotte as the host city for the 2017 All-Star Weekend. In the announcement, Silver hailed Charlotte as a “thriving city” and “terrific All-Star destination.”

NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, a majority owner of the Hornets, called it an honor to return All-Star Weekend back to Charlotte.

“I remember the excitement of playing in the 1991 All-Star Game, the first one held in my home state, and I take pride in being able to host NBA All-Star 2017 as the owner of the Hornets,” said Jordan, who played college basketball at the University of North Carolina and led the All-Star Game with 26 points that year in the Eastern Conference’s 116-114 win over the West. “This is a great moment for our fans, our city, and our franchise.”

Signatories of the letter included Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, singers Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, and theatrical company Cirque du Soleil have canceled events that were scheduled in the state in response to its controversial law.