Jason Collins on HB2, Basketball, and Hillary Clinton

The fallout from HB2 continues to hurt North Carolina families and businesses. Most recently, the NCAA and ACC decided to move championship games out of North Carolina, citing HB2 specifically as the reason. Governor Pat McCrory doubled down on his support for this discriminatory legislation and refused to consider repealing the law.

We talked to Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, to hear his take on HB2 and the stakes in this election for North Carolina. He understands that we need to put our state back in the right direction. This starts with electing leaders that will fight for a North Carolina that welcomes everyone.

People, especially in North Carolina, may think that HB2 is an LGBT specific issue that doesn’t affect them. What would you say to those people who might not think that HB2 affects them? Why should they care about it?

If you’re truly a citizen of North Carolina, then you should care about every other citizen in your community. When businesses and companies don’t feel comfortable sending their employees to North Carolina because they don’t want their employees to feel discriminated against, that has a negative impact on money that is coming into your state. It’s all connected, so it does affect you. Maybe you don’t have a friend or know someone from the LGBT community, but, at some point down the road, it will affect you.

If you’re truly a citizen of North Carolina, then you should care about every other citizen in your community.

Obviously, we just saw another consequence of having HB2, which is the NCAA pulling out its championship level sporting events from the state of North Carolina. Whether you are a fan of sports or music, entertainers are pulling out. There are entertainers, like Bruce Springsteen, who are refusing to perform and to play. The NBA is obviously pulling out. Paypal stopped their expansion into North Carolina, so those are lost jobs. There are very real consequences. Everything is connected, and when you have discriminatory laws that are in place, it does affect you in some way.

Professional sports have been seen as the final frontier for LGBT acceptance. Given that, how do you feel about the recent trend in sports organizations pulling their events out of North Carolina because of HB2?

I’m very proud to see the sports community step up and remove events from North Carolina. I know the NBA and NCAA want to have these events. They want to have the All Star game in Charlotte and they want to have March Madness and the other great championship events in North Carolina because the people of North Carolina are great fans of sports.

When you have a law like HB2, though, it doesn’t make the fans comfortable traveling to the state. We see it in the business community. We see it with the sports community. Both are trying to create an environment where everyone feels welcome.

That is one of the great things about the sport of basketball. There is no discrimination. It doesn’t matter your gender, your race, or your religion. I’ve participated in wheelchair basketball games and I’m the first openly gay NBA basketball player. If you can play, you can play.

HB2 doesn’t create a “come as you are” environment or make you feel comfortable being your authentic self when you are in North Carolina. Changes need to take place before the NBA and the NCAA return to North Carolina. There needs to be a resolution — removal of the law. Going through the court system can take years. The easiest option is to elect a new governor and have Roy Cooper and the new members of the state legislature overturn HB2.

HB2 doesn’t create a “come as you are” environment or make you feel comfortable being your authentic self when you are in North Carolina.

What was your response to HB2? How do you explain that it is an issue of equality and not an issue of protection?

HB2 needs to go away.

It’s a shame that HB2 happened, and it’s unfortunate that Republican leaders continue to support it, even after seeing its negative impact on the state’s economy and reputation. It’s like a self-inflicted wound they are doing to their state, their state’s reputation, and to the people of the state who are trying to do the right thing.

The city of Charlotte tried to make this an issue of equality when they tried to extend protections to the LGBT community. There are certain rights and protections that are extended to certain groups — be it with race, with gender, or if you have a disability.

HB2 was enacted as way to stop these protections. That’s why this is an issue of equality.

Laws like HB2 play to people’s fears. I think that we need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and speak to our better angels which are about equality and not stoking the fires of fear and hate.

We have really tight local elections in North Carolina. Why do you think a Democratic win in North Carolina is essential in this election? What do you think a Democratic win will do for North Carolina going forward?

A Democratic win in North Carolina is important because it’s one of those swing states. If I’m a citizen of North Carolina, I’m tired of the talk about HB2 and I want it to go away. I would not want my state to constantly be referred to as being on the wrong side of history. I would elect officials who would move our state forward and who would be on the side of equality.

I don’t know how many people in North Carolina are big into sports, but I would speculate that it’s a very large percentage. I know North Carolina loves its basketball. If I’m a resident of North Carolina, I want the NBA and March Madness in my state and the All Star game in my state. I would do everything possible to elect officials who are going to make that possible and to elect officials who represent the good values of equality and acceptance.

That would be Hillary Clinton. That would be Roy Cooper. That would be Deborah Ross.

I would do everything possible to elect officials…who represent the good values of equality and acceptance.

What can people do to take back North Carolina and really help it become a place where tolerance and acceptance, not discrimination, informs their legislation and the shape of their state?

The most important thing you can do as a citizen of North Carolina is vote. If you need to register to vote, go register to vote. Make sure you know what location to go to on election day or how to do an absentee ballot.

After that, encourage everyone in your circle to vote as well. It’s a ripple effect. Try to get as many people as you can to go vote so that we can see change in the state of North Carolina with regards to HB2, the governor’s race, and the senate race.

I truly believe that in sports you need everybody on the team, whether you are the superstar or the last person on the bench. We’re all in this together. It’s all about bringing people together. I think that’s what Hillary Clinton stands for. She is the candidate for equality. And that’s the kind of president she will be.

If you agree with Jason that HB2 needs to go, text NC to 47246 and sign up to volunteer to help turn North Carolina blue!