NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was tap dancing around a difficult issue like a presidential candidate Friday.
Following the NBA Board of Governors’ meeting Friday (that’s the owners), Silver was asked about the NBA’s stance on HB2, the “bathroom law” in North Carolina, and if the league is planning to move the 2017 All-Star Game scheduled for Charlotte. He said that the goal was to find a way to encourage change in the North Carolina law before bringing down the hammer of moving the event. From the Sporting News.
“By no means are we saying we’re stepping back,” Silver said at a news conference. “The message is not that somehow the current state of affairs is OK for the league. Let me be clear: The current state of the law is problematic for the NBA in North Carolina. For the league office and our owners, I think the discussion was, how can we be most constructive in being part of a process that results in the kind of change that we think is necessary?”
He said there were no discussions with owners of moving the event. But that is like a GM saying he never discussed a trade — there are levels of discussion. You can be sure the NBA has reached out to potential new destinations and started that process, and with that there have been some off-the-record, back-channel conversations with owners about it. But a formal discussion with all the owners? No, not yet.
The NBA released this statement clarifying their position, via Mike Bass, Executive Vice President, Communications:
“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.”
Recently, North Carolina’s legislature called a special session to approve the law, which restricts transgender bathroom use (you have to use the bathroom for the gender with which you were born) and preempted anti-discrimination ordinances put in by Charlotte and other North Carolina cities that tried to block discrimination against gays and lesbians. The law led to a business backlash — PayPal, Deutsche Bank, and others have pulled plans for expansion in the state off the table — as well as a social one, including things such as Bruce Springsteen canceling a concert in the state.
The most likely outcome is the North Carolina legislature goes into regular session and rolls back portions of the law, everyone declares victory, and the NBA keeps the event in the state of incredible vinegary barbecue. I don’t believe that’s enough, I’m with Stan Van Gundy that the league should move the event. But compromise is the American way.