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Athletes at ACC’s 4 North Carolina schools urge legislators to repeal anti-LGBTQ law

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North Carolina has lost events because of the law.

NCAA Football: Elon University at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina’s former governor signed HB2, a discriminatory law targeting gay and transgender people, last March. The law’s primary functions are to require transgender people to use public bathrooms marked for the gender on their birth certificates, and prevent local governments from enacting certain anti-discrimination policies that would protect the LGBTQ community.

The law’s been bad for business. In the sports world, the NCAA, NBA, and ACC have all pulled events out of the Tar Heel State. The free market’s reacted to this bit of government regulation with a message that it doesn’t want to subject customers and patrons to a discriminatory environment. A panel of ACC athletes at the league’s four North Carolina schools are now publicly joining that choir.

Athletes at North Carolina, Duke, NC State, and Wake Forest wrote a letter to legislators that calls for a repeal of the law. An excerpt, via WCHL in Chapel Hill:

The ACC values equality and inclusion for all, and as students and athletes representing the ACC member institutions of North Carolina, we believe HB2 is counter to those values. All of us have professors, coaches, fans, teammates, friends, and family members who are adversely affected by the language of this bill, but we are calling on lawmakers to recognize that this is no longer a partisan issue of political ideology. This is a matter of survival, of civic responsibility, and seriously considering what it means to serve the interests of North Carolina.

The athletes who signed the letter, as WCHL relayed it, are UNC fencer Ezra Baeli-Wang, Duke football receiver Chris Taylor, Wake Forest golfer Tanner Owen, and NC State diver Gabi McDermott. They’re members of an ACC student athletic advisory panel. Duke and the ACC’s league office previously expressed approval of the NCAA’s decision to pull events out of the state.

There’s a movement afoot in the state legislature to repeal the law. The governor who signed it, Republican Pat McCrory, lost reelection in November to Democrat Roy Cooper. But the Republican majority that passed the law initially still runs the state legislature, so it’s not certain that Cooper, an opponent of HB2, will ultimately get his way. It nearly happened recently but didn’t.

The full letter from the athletes is below, again via WCHL:

It’s the fourth quarter, and the clock is winding down. This is a game we can’t afford to lose.

Since its passage last year, House Bill 2 has rapidly devolved from political controversy into impractical reality. In the past ten months, North Carolina has seen revenue flee the state in the form of billions of dollars in federal funding, employers halting expansion plans, entertainers, artists, and athletic organizations cancelling events, and countless losses of potential jobs, ticket sales, and tax revenues. On Monday, the reality of HB2’s unsustainability grew even clearer with the NCAA’s announcement that unless lawmakers repeal the bill by the end of February, North Carolina will forfeit its eligibility to host championship events in the state through 2022.

The economic impact of this nearly six-year drought is an estimated $250 million—not factoring in the likely eventuality that the ACC would subsequently pull its championships from the state, adhering to the precedent it set earlier this year. The cost of these games goes beyond the deprivation of dollars and cents, beyond the stadiums and seats standing vacant, the officials, vendors, security guards, maintenance and media crews without work—the loss of these games is something more powerful than all of that: it’s a message. It’s a message because that loss is avoidable. To surrender North Carolina’s 133 bids to host championship events over the next six years is a deliberate choice. It’s a choice that prioritizes politics and pride over fans, coaches, students, athletes, families, workers, and communities across North Carolina.

The ACC values equality and inclusion for all, and as students and athletes representing the ACC member institutions of North Carolina, we believe HB2 is counter to those values. All of us have professors, coaches, fans, teammates, friends, and family members who are adversely affected by the language of this bill, but we are calling on lawmakers to recognize that this is no longer a partisan issue of political ideology. This is a matter of survival, of civic responsibility, and seriously considering what it means to serve the interests of North Carolina.

As student-athletes at the University of North Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest, we gave everything to earn the privilege of being where we are now. We love our schools and we love this state, and we want what’s best for both; we know the dread and frustration of being down, and we know the elation of making all the right plays, of working as a team, and leading in times of struggle to emerge victorious from the looming shadow of defeat. Please, repeal HB2.

It’s the fourth quarter, and the clock is winding down. This is a game we can’t afford to lose.