OAKLAND — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made it clear: He doesn’t want to move the 2017 NBA All-Star Game out of Charlotte. He was optimistic that efforts were taking place behind the scenes to modify North Carolina’s much discussed “bathroom law.”
But if it’s not done by sometime this summer, the NBA is looking at its its options to move the game to another city.
“We are looking at alternatives,” on where to host the 2017 All-Star Game, Silver said in his press conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. “So the critical date for us is are we in a position, if for some reason we don’t move forward in Charlotte, to play our All-Star Game somewhere else? We are in the process of looking at other options. At the same time, I don’t think it would be productive to draw a line in the sand, and we’d be moving on if I didn’t think there were constructive discussions going on in North Carolina right now.”
It makes complete political sense for Silver not to draw a hard-and-fast line in the sand. However, logistically, there needs to be a drop-dead date, even if the league does not make it public.
“Realistically, this summer,” Silver said. “I don’t see we would get past this summer without knowing definitively where we stand.”
In question is the “bathroom law” that has become a national focal point on the topic of transgendered — as well as gay and lesbian — rights.
North Carolina’s legislature called a special session earlier this year approve HB2, 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.
Silver said the law is not going to be changed because of what the NBA does or does not do. However, the law does not fit with the ethos of the NBA.
“But one of the core principles, underlying principles of this league is diversity and inclusion,” Silver said. “I think people understand that’s one of our values. It was a value built from the ground floor up in this league long before I ever got involved in it, and I’m sort of carrying the mantle now. But I know I speak on behalf of our owners, our teams and our players. I think they all feel very strongly that this is a core principle of our league, and that where we choose to celebrate something like an All-Star Game, that those values should be honored.”
What Silver wants to see is North Carolina modify the law, saving the NBA the trouble of moving the All-Star Game. Or, explaining why it’s not okay to play the All-Star Game in the state but it is okay to play 41 other regular season Charlotte Hornets games there.
“I was in North Carolina about two and a half weeks ago, spoke to a lot of business leaders in Charlotte who are working behind the scenes, frankly, to craft some sort of compromise with the governmental leaders both in the city and the state,” Silver said. “I’d say there is absolutely strong interest in trying to work something out. I think both sides of the issue recognize, however heartfelt their views are, that the current state of being is causing enormous economic damage to the state.”
The NBA’s vague summer deadline creates an interesting dynamic. This law was passed with the overwhelming support of Republicans in the North Carolina legislature, and not coincidentally they did this in an election year when trying to motivate their base. Even if those Republicans are willing to modify the law, would they be willing to do so before the November elections? If not, what decision will Adam Silver and the NBA make?