Sports: Red America’s Achilles Heel
The North Carolina legislature appears set to repeal the state’s controversial bathroom bill today. Here’s a big reason why:
This week, a new flurry of action over House Bill 2 came as the N.C.A.A. warned the state that it could lose the opportunity to host championship sporting events through 2022. The league had already relocated championship tournament games that would have been played in North Carolina during this academic year, including the Division I men’s basketball tournament.
The possibility of further punishment placed tremendous pressure on lawmakers in the basketball-obsessed state, a pressure exacerbated by the fact that the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team has reached the N.C.A.A. tournament’s Final Four and will be squaring off against the University of Oregon on Saturday night.
The Atlantic Coast Conference also moved its neutral-site championships out of North Carolina this year in response to House Bill 2, and the National Basketball Association moved its All-Star game to New Orleans from Charlotte.
Some local news outlets reported this week the N.C.A.A. had set a Thursday deadline for the state to address the bill. Officials at the association could not be reached for comment Wednesday. A league statement last week stated, “Absent any change in the law, our position remains the same regarding hosting current or future events in the state.”
Attention must be paid. You should expect that this strategy is how the NCAA is going to dictate to colleges and university what their LGBT policies are going to be. Want to be part of national college athletics? Then you had better do what the NCAA says. If it comes right down to it, do you think Baylor (for example) would sacrifice its athletic programs or its Christian principles on LGBT matters? If the university leadership decided that it would rather see athletics taken away from them than compromise on its principles, can you imagine how hard alumni would come down on them?
Of course there is no question at all where my alma mater, Louisiana State, would stand if it had to choose. The NCAA could demand at the start of every football season the ritual sacrifice of five Pentecostal virgins on the Tiger Stadium 50-yard-line, and the people of Louisiana wouldn’t bat an eye. Just keep that football coming. Because it’s the true religion.
But LSU is a state school. Conservative Christian colleges and their alumni had better start thinking right now about whether or not they are willing to sacrifice their athletic programs for principle. That decision is coming, and coming fast.