The NCAA Tournament Is Leaving North Carolina In The First Of What Should Be Many Steps Forward

In what activists are applauding as an important first step in the right direction, the NCAA relocated seven championship events from North Carolina due to the state's House Bill 2, which is discriminatory toward the LGBTQ community. According to USA Today, this isn't the first time the NCAA decided to move an event in response to HB2; in July, the association moved its All-Star game from Charlotte. But the NCAA isn't just focusing on North Carolina. The Los Angeles Times reported back in April that cities with anti-LGBT laws and policies would no longer be allowed to host NCAA tournament events.

The NCAA issued a statement on its website explaining the decision to relocate seven events over the course of the 2016-17 academic year:

The NCAA Board of Governors made this decision because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections. In its decision Monday, the Board of Governors emphasized that NCAA championships and events must promote an inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans. Current North Carolina state laws make it challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver on that commitment if NCAA events remained in the state, the board said.

The Board of Governors cited four specific issues it found with North Carolina's laws, including HB2. The board slammed North Carolina for not extending the protection of basic rights to LGBT individuals, and criticized the state for its now-notorious bathroom policy that prevents people — regardless of gender identity — from using restrooms that don't match the gender listed on their birth certificates. The board also cited the fact that state officials can access legal protections if they choose to deny services to LGBT individuals, and indicated that multiple cities and states do not allow representatives of public institutions — including student athletes — to travel to North Carolina.

This is an important step for the NCAA to take — but it is a step, and should not mark the end of its efforts to be more inclusive. As Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler pointed out to USA Today, the NCAA still has a lot of work to do.

I'm surprised and encouraged by the NCAA's announcement. They have previously fallen back on the idea that the national office has limited power and bureaucratic hurdles to affect change like this. Now that they've taken this step, they need to further protect student-athletes and coaches and ban all members with specific anti-LGBT policies. Removing events from North Carolina is nice, but the association continues to have members that discriminate against LGBT people. What they do with those members in the next year will tell us how serious they are, or if this was just a PR move.

In the past, the NCAA has routinely faced pressure from LGBT activists to be more inclusive, and to refrain from holding events that won't ensure the safety of LGBT individuals. As Zeigler said, the NCAA's actions this year have marked a significant step forward, and hopefully, the association will continue to challenge discriminatory policies down the road.