Earlier this week, the NCAA moved all championship games out of the state of North Carolina in a show of solidarity with LGBTQ groups because of the controversial bathroom law HB2. It was an extremely strong punishment to North Carolina, a state that prides itself on collegiate sports, and one that has been called a true “punch to the gut.”
But today, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) doubled down on the NCAA’s move and has similarly moved all of its neutral site championships from the state of North Carolina.
“The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said. “Today’s decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships.”
So now, the ACC has joined the NBA and the NCAA in punishing North Carolina for a law that they see as immoral. It’s one thing for the NCAA or even the NBA to boycott North Carolina, but when the ACC goes ahead and does that–you know something’s up. North Carolina accounts for four out of the fifteen ACC colleges, and 50% of what I would consider the ACC’s “Big Four” (UNC, Duke, FSU, and Miami). This is not a decision that the ACC makes lightly, you can be sure.
Or maybe, just maybe, this is the power move behind teams like VT, Miami, or FSU to give their own teams a real chance at playing at a “neutral site.”
Obviously, the UNC Tarheels and the Duke Blue Devils are two of the biggest teams in college basketball, but the ACC has long been one of the perennial powerhouses for many sports. Women’s soccer, men’s soccer, women’s lacrosse, men’s lacrosse, field hockey, women’s tennis, baseball, and now (most importantly) football. Last year, the ACC Championship between Clemson and UNC brought in $35 million of revenue to Charlotte. That’s a ton of cash for just a single game. Now add on the fact that the NBA All-Star game was moved from Charlotte ($100 million) and you’re starting to understand the North Carolina government might be changing their law sometime soon.