NCAA Criticized for Reversing Ban on North Carolina Sports Events over Social Policy
The NCAA has lifted its ban on North Carolina sporting events it had imposed last year due to the Tarheel State’s law against LGBTQ citizens. North Carolina’s legislature recently passed a “fig leaf of a bill” that partially reversed the policies imposed in early 2016.
In return, the NCAA Board of Governors agreed to allow 23 NCAA Division I, II, and III championship events to be held in North Carolina beginning in the 2017-18 season and ending in the 2021-22 season. Those events include 1st- and 2nd-round events in the Men’s (“March Madness”) Basketball Championship in 2020, as well as regional games in the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship in 2019.
Human Rights Campaign Statement
A variety of public policy groups, media, and human rights organizations were critical of the NCAA’s moves. The Human Rights Campaign released a statement saying “By rewarding North Carolina with championship games, the NCAA has undermined its credibility and is sending a dangerous message to lawmakers across the country who are targeting LGBTQ people with discriminatory state legislation.”
The ACLU conducted its own write-in campaign to controversial NCAA President Mark Emmert. The ACLU petition called the NCAA’s actions a “nakedly hypocritical act” and called for a public records request to major North Carolina cities to find out what is being done to prevent discrimination.
The letter to Mark Emmert was penned by the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project director James Esseks. Mr. Esseks’ letter read, “When the NCAA originally withdrew events from North Carolina, they did so because they claimed to care about ‘fairness and inclusion’ for college athletes and fans. It’s a shame to see that those concerns have already fallen by the wayside.”
Dispute with New Jersey over Sports Betting
Those same groups quickly pointed out that the NCAA maintains a ban against New Jersey and Nevada based on single-game sports betting. They pointed out that New Jersey once was a hotbed of NCAA Championship events, but when New Jersey began championing legalized sports betting with a 2012 statewide law, the NCAA withdrew all events from New Jersey beginning in 2013. That ban remains in effect at least through 2022.
In banning games in New Jersey, the NCAA said it was protecting the “integrity of the game”. An NCAA spokesman also noted their anti-sports gambling ban was put in place out of “concerns for student-athlete well-being”. The pro-LGBT groups noted that the NCAA no longer seems to have similar concerns, at least for certain athletes.
At the time, NCAA Executive VIP of Championships and Alliances Mark Lewis said, “Maintaining the integrity of sports and protecting student-athlete well-being are at the bedrock of the NCAA’s mission, and are reflected in our policies prohibiting the hosting of our championships in states that provide for single game sports wagering. Consistent with our policies and beliefs, the law in New Jersey requires that we no longer host championships in the state.”
Enforcement of Ban on New Jersey
In 2014, New Jersey repealed its laws legalizing sports betting. Though it was done in order to avoid federal PASPA regulations, New Jersey no longer has statutes which approve and regulate sports betting. Despite that fact and despite the fact New Jersey’s casinos and sportsbooks do not allow single-game sports betting, the NCAA maintains its ban.
In response to legal challenges and public relations challenges, the NCAA Board of Governors did relent on the New Jersey ban somewhat on Tuesday. It allowed for two Division III championship games to be played in New Jersey in 2019 and 2020, though those concessions pale in comparison to the 23 games (many Division I and Division II games) given to North Carolina at the same time.
NorthJersey.com recorded the change of policy in an online article on Wednesday, which stated, “In a later press release on Tuesday listing future Division III championship sites, New Jersey landed two consolation prizes. The 2019 Division III men’s volleyball championships will be held at Kean University in Union, while the 2020 Division III women’s field hockey championships will be held at Montclair State.”
Mark Emmert’s Bias
Those who follow the NCAA’s policing of NCAA Football and NCAA Men’s Basketball would argue this week’s decision betrays a regional bias by the NCAA. Mark Emmert, who was the chancellor of LSU before becoming NCAA president, has been accused of a bias toward southern schools, specifically those in the SEC and ACC.
Mark Emmert hired Nick Saban to be LSU’s head coach in 2004, and many believe Emmert has given Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide preferential treatment during Saban’s record-breaking run in Tuscaloosa. He also was accused of uncharacteristic leniency towards Auburn University during Cam Newton’s NCAA Championship career.
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