NCAA returns events to North Carolina after state rolls back LGBTQ law

The NCAA has awarded men's basketball tournament games in 2020 and 2021 along with several other championship events to North Carolina after the state repealed elements of a law that limited protections for LGBTQ people and put it at risk of being passed over as a host for future events.

The governing body announced decisions Tuesday for events through 2022, two weeks after the NCAA said it had “reluctantly” agreed to consider North Carolina again for hosting duties. It had stripped North Carolina of seven championship events for the last sports season — including opening-weekend men's basketball tournament games — and said it could relocate more events if there wasn't a change in the “bathroom bill.”

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed a compromise bill March 30, saying it wasn't a perfect solution. The compromise was reached days after the NCAA said the state was down to its final days to deal with the law.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said at the Final Four that he was pleased the state had passed a new law despite “very difficult” politics. But the NCAA offered a lukewarm endorsement of the compromise measure days later, saying the new law met “minimal” requirements to allow NCAA back into consideration for future events.

It stated that events already awarded to North Carolina for the 2017-18 sports season — including men's basketball tournament games in Charlotte — would remain in place.

The NCAA's North Carolina ban for the 2016-17 season didn't affect teams that earn home-court advantage during the season, such as the Duke women's basketball team hosting tournament games in March.

The Atlantic Coast Conference also pulled 10 neutral-site events from the state last fall, including moving the football championship game from Charlotte to Orlando, Fla. The conference said after the compromise was reached that its upcoming events would remain in place and the football title game would return to Charlotte for its contractual run there through 2019.

The NBA relocated this year's All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans because of the law, though the league hasn't committed to bringing its annual showcase back.

The loss of men's basketball tournament games was particularly jarring in basketball-crazy North Carolina, the site of more tournament games (251) than any other state.

North Carolina — which hosted the 1994 Final Four in Charlotte — had hosted games in 11 of 13 years before the NCAA stripped March games from Greensboro. Those games were relocated to Greenville, S.C. That state had been banned from hosting events for years, until the ban was lifted following the removal of a Confederate flag from state capitol grounds in 2015.

Cooper had said it was clear that the NCAA had wanted a complete repeal of House Bill 2, as did he. But the governor has said the new law was the best compromise he could get given Republicans' veto-proof majorities in the legislature. It drew criticism from some LGBTQ rights groups said was still discriminatory.

The replacement bill eliminated a requirement that in many public buildings, transgender people use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. The new law says only state legislators — not local governments or school officials — can make rules for public restrooms.

The original bill also invalidated any local ordinances protecting gay or transgender people from discrimination in the workplace or in public accommodations. The compromise prohibits local governments from enacting any new such protections until December 2020.

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