Since North Carolina passed the contentious HB2 bill known colloquially as the “Bathroom Bill,” sporting events in the state have dried up. The NBA removed Charlotte as the host for the 2017 All Star Game. The NCAA soon followed suit.
Heading into my junior season this fall, I had dreamed of the possibility of my team making it to the Division III Men’s College Soccer Final Four in my home state of North Carolina. Since I go to school in Massachusetts and play a New England-based schedule, I do not have any opportunities to play in front of my high school friends. This would have been my chance. But even though my team held up our end of the bargain, my state let me down, as the Final Four was eventually moved to Roanoke, Virginia. But while the politicians in Raleigh are not exactly losing sleep over my own plight, the events of this past weekend may force them to reevaluate their thinking.
It is hard to explain to outsiders how important college basketball is in North Carolina. But the fact that Duke’s upset loss at the hands of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina’s struggles against Arkansas have entered the political sphere tell you all that you need to know about college basketball’s place in the state.
For only the second time since 2007, North Carolina was not selected as a venue for the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament. In years past, the opening games were rotated between Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro, with either Duke or North Carolina usually playing their games there. This year, the event was bumped from North Carolina to Greenville, South Carolina. Without the support guaranteed in Raleigh, the top seeded Tar Heels struggled to fend off Arkansas, and Duke, a two-seed, fell to South Carolina, a team that before Friday had not won an NCAA tournament game since the Nixon administration.
After the surprising struggles of the state’s top teams, many immediately began to wonder if the results would have been different if the games had been played within state lines. While UNC’s eventual victory may have alleviated some of the pressure on the state assembly, people are not happy that politics are affecting their beloved basketball. And this is not a one-off scenario. The NCAA is in the process of choosing sites for the next six years, and as long as HB2 is in place, North Carolina will not be considered. Forget the estimated $250 million that this legislature will cost North Carolina. Businesses have been leaving the state for months without legislators blinking an eye. If you are a politician in North Carolina actively hurting UNC’s, and to a lesser extent Duke’s, chances of winning basketball games, you may be searching for a new profession soon. Oh, and if Pat McCrory’s fate is any indicator, it may be a long search.
- Matthew Zinner