Newly-Emboldened Red States Be Warned: the NCAA Still Wants You to Play Nice.

As March Madness kicks off, NCAA reaffirms commitment to LGBTQ community.

This week, with all eyes on Duke and North Carolina as two of the favorites to win March Madness, their paths to bracket victory have been made that much harder. Thanks to an NCAA boycott of the state, what would have been games with a home-field advantage (the Tar Heels are 33–1 in March Madness games played in NC; Duke 34–6), are now being played over in Greenville, SC.

With the ideological map redrawn in the aftermath of the 2016 election, dozens of states are taking advantage of their newfound Republican ascendency to usher in a slate of new laws. The usual suspects are all on the chopping block — abortion, unions, environmental regulations. And of course any minorities.

That includes a concerted effort to wind back any protections granted to LGBTQ people, and in some cases legislation to explicitly allow discrimination against them. North Carolina already has such a law (HB2), Texas is currently trying to introduce one (SB6).

It’s opened up a frontline: sporting boycotts of states that discriminate. The NCAA has already declared its hand, relocating tournament games out of North Carolina last year, and threatening to ban the state as a host for the next six years if the law isn’t repealed.

Now on the eve of this year’s March Madness, the NCAA has reassured the LGBTQ advocacy community that their resolve stands firm:

“The bidding process for hosting NCAA events now explicitly asks potential sites how they will provide an environment that is safe, respectful and free of discrimination at the events.” — NCAA

The NCAA sent a letter in response to a request from the HRC Foundation, Athlete Ally, and more 80 national, state, and local LGBTQ organizations to reaffirm its commitment:

The NCAA’s action comes on top of the NBA relocating their All-Star Game and PayPal pulling out of an expansion in North Carolina.

Photo: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

If any states are still in two minds about the impact of such legislation, just ask the former Governor of North Carolina who signed HB2 into law, Pat McCrory (R): he complained this week that no-one wants to hire him as a consultant. “People are reluctant to hire me, because, ‘oh my gosh, he’s a bigot,’” he whined. Yep, and the NCAA doesn’t want to play ball with you either.