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Atlantic Coast Conference Moves Championship Games Out of North Carolina

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Atlantic Coast Conference Moves Championship Games Out of North Carolina
Georgia Tech players sing the school's fight song at 2006 ACC Championship game. Photo: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_ACC_Championship_Game#/media/File:Georgia_Tech_football_team_Sept_9_2006.jpg">Brooke Novak</a>

Less than 24 hours after the National Collegiate Athletics Association pulled all of their championship games out of North Carolina, The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced that it too will follow suit.

The conference says that it’s decision to move all of its championship games out of the state will remain in effect through at least the 2016-2017 school year. These latest moves by both organizations come in response to North Carolina republican legislature passing sweeping anti-trans and anti-LGBT legislation this past summer.

The law, notably known as House Bill 2 or HB2 for short, prevents cities and counties from passing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also requires that public restrooms or locker rooms – including those in public buildings – be designated for use only by people based on the sex they were assigned at birth.

Republican lawmakers argue that the protections are necessary for the protection of women and children – despite the fact that there’s not been a single instance of a transgender individuals committing crimes in North Carolina public restrooms.

Civil rights organizations say this puts transgender individuals in the rather precarious position of using restrooms that do not match the gender in which they identify – or face criminal charges for disregarding the law.

“The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount. Today’s decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships.”

The original dates and sites for the neutral site championships affected:

Women’s soccer: Nov. 4, 6; Cary

Football: Dec. 3; Charlotte

Men’s and women’s swimming and diving: Feb. 15-18; Greensboro

Women’s basketball: March 1-5; Greensboro

Men’s and women’s tennis: April 26-30; Cary

Women’s golf: April 21-23, Greensboro

Men’s golf: April 21-23; New London

Baseball: May 23-28; Durham

The conference said it would have further announcements on where these championships will be played and that the move will not affect sports whose conference titles are decided on home turf.

“As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination,” said a joint statement from the ACC Council of Presidents. “Every one of our 15 universities is strongly committed to these values and therefore, we will continue to host ACC Championships at campus sites. We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year. All locations will be announced in the future from the conference office.”

Hudson Taylor, the executive director of LGBT advocacy group Athlete Ally, praised the decision.

“The ACC’s decision to pull its championships from North Carolina is yet another win for the LGBT community and is an acknowledgement that athletic championships should only be awarded to those states and cities that champion LGBT equality,” Taylor said in a statement. “I am hopeful that losing the NBA All-Star game, the NCAA championships and now the ACC championships, will once and for all convince North Carolina legislators that they are on the wrong side of history and that LGBT athletes and fans deserve to be protected and respected on the field and under the law.”

Athlete Ally and a number of other LGBT organizations have been working for months with business and other interests in the state in an effort to force the hand of republican legislators into repealing the bill. To date, those efforts have been wildly successful with everyone from businesses such as PayPal to musicians and entertainers.

However, republican lawmakers in the state of only slightly budged from their original position this past summer – resulting in a failed effort to draft a replacement bill that ever so slightly changed the effect of the legislation in an effort to keep big business in the state.

To date, only one republican, State Senator Tamara Barringer, has changed course on the legislation. The governor and rest of the state republican leadership seem to be sticking to their guns. “Our women and girls in the state of North Carolina are not for sale,” Lt. Gov. Dan Forest told reporters. “They’re not for sale to Hollywood, to any concert venue, to the NBA or the NCAA. The protection and safety and security of women and girls in North Carolina is our utmost importance.”

Both decisions follow the NBA’s move earlier this summer to take the 2017 NBA All-Star game away from Charlotte.

“Today’s decision is one of principle,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said, “and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected.”