Discrimination is the Adam Silver line In the sand

As of today, the state of North Carolina is continuing to discriminate. And as of today, Adam Silver is refusing to drag his league into the mess created by House Bill 2.

The 2017 NBA All-Star game has been pulled from Charlotte, even as it was going to be a homecoming for local son NBA face of the league Steph Curry.

There are things in the world bigger than Steph Curry. For Adam Silver, discrimination is it.

In March, North Carolina representatives, under the cloak of darkness and secrecy, in a hush-hush move, held a closed door session and voted in favor of House Bill 2 which was later signed by the governor, Pat McCrory. The decision to disenfranchise an entire group of people (LGBT) and to put millions of dollars of revenue at stake was enacted without fully contemplating the consequences.

The facts: House Bill 2 prevents North Carolina cities from passing anti-discriminatory LGBT laws of their own. The bill was written after the city of Charlotte passed an anti-discrimination ordinance that prevents discrimination by businesses against gay, bisexual, transgender and lesbian customers. The ordinance also allowed members of the LGBT community to use public restroom facilities according to the gender they identify with. House Bill 2, in effect, renders the Charlotte ordinance dead. And the 2017 All-Star game in Charlotte is dead too.

The North Carolina politicians didn’t win any friends within the NBA community, particularly Adam Silver who believes as commissioner, it is his responsibility to represent fairness and equality. Furthermore, the All-Star game is a public event. Silver didn’t want any of the guests who come in and spend thousands of dollars that weekend to be discriminated against as a matter of morality and as a matter of law.

The current glamour team in the league, the Golden State Warriors, has a gay executive, Rick Welts, who is President and Chief of Operations. It was reported that Welts gave an emotional speech at the NBA owners meetings last week, detailing how impactful, dangerous and devastating House Bill 2 is for the gay community and for citizens at large, particularly those in town for All-Star weekend.

For Silver, the issue of discrimination is personal. His first few months in office as NBA Commissioner, he staked his reputation on getting Donald Sterling out of the league. If Silver has one defining characteristic, it is that he believes deeply in a moral compass and is willing to follow it through, despite the ramifications.

His statement:

“Our week-long schedule of All-Star activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values of which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community. While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2”

There is the moral high ground that the NBA is planting their flag on but hidden in the details, as always, is money. The All-Star game is a corporate event. Big money flows in. Corporate sensitivity to discrimination is very high. Sponsors may pull out altogether or low ball the NBA on ad rates. Revenue streams will suffer. Not to mention, the NBA doesn’t want their brand associated with discrimination.

Upon hearing the NBA verdict, the North Carolina legislators were taken aback and were instantly defensive and for good reason. They just lost $100 million dollars in revenue. When the politicians hastily put this bill in place months ago and then patted themselves on the back for excluding a group of their own citizens, they didn’t understand the repercussions, as businesses conferences were cancelled and cities like Los Angeles and New York informed their city employees they were forbidden to travel to North Carolina on business.

American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.  (Pat, McCrory, governor, North Carolina)

However political this may feel, a capitalistic structure in which supply and demand determine the marketplace, doesn’t grant a right for a certain business to be in a particular city. You have to earn that right through competitive bids and part of the bidding process is proving you are inclusive of human behavior, and, in that, you treat everyone fairly, not just a select few whose beliefs and experiences align with yours.

Still, it is a blow to the NBA and was something they did not want to do, yank the All-Star game from Michael Jordan, a game in which favorite son Steph Curry was going to have an epic homecoming.

The NBA isn’t on an island here. Pay Pal, Dow Chemical, Google and American Airlines aren’t on board either. Last year, a similar law in Indiana was overturned because of threats from the NCAA. Atlanta is set to host the Super Bowl this year but the NFL has made itself clear. If Atlanta passes an anti-gay law, they will pull the Super Bowl out of Atlanta. So Atlanta didn’t pass it.

NBA players are mixed about the decision which doesn’t mean they condone discrimination, just that Charlotte getting the All-Star game would be a financial and media coup for the Southern city.

Steph Curry: “I know how much that would have meant to the city. We support [the decision] but at the end of the day, I love Charlotte. I love the city.”

Carmelo Anthony: “I feel bad for MJ because I know what that was going to do for the city of Charlotte. It was definitely going to boost everything. We, as players, didn’t think it was going to get to this. It’s unfortunate.”

Paul George: I’m huge on keeping your word. I’m not necessarily saying it’s bad for the NBA to move it. Charlotte is a growing city and the Hornets have picked that program up. It’s a shame that we’d take that away from them.”

Jason Collins: As a member of the NBA family and as a gay man, I’m extremely proud to see the NBA take initiative and move the All-Star game from North Carolina. Their decision is an extremely poignant one and shows that discrimination of any kind is not  welcomed in sports and is not acceptable in any part of our society.”

Kevin Durant (Twitter): “I recognize this was a tough decision for the NBA but I respect the choice. Discrimination of any kind cannot be allowed.”



photo via llananba