Netherlands legalized same-sex marriage in 2001. Belgium followed in 2003, Spain and Canada in 2005. The United States didn’t do the same until last year.
So let’s not go too far congratulating ourselves for our increasingly liberal attitudes about gay rights. On this particular issue, Americans are followers, not leaders.
Still, the NBA deserves a standing ovation for its decision to move its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to protest North Carolina’s House Bill 2, a misguided and mean-spirited piece of legislation that limits anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The new location of the Feb. 19 event will be announced in the coming weeks, the league said in a statement. The likely destination is New Orleans, the same city that once inherited the Hornets from Charlotte, The Vertical reported.
Sure, you can be cynical about NBA’s motives. The league continues to send teams to play exhibition games in China, which has a questionable human-rights record. And if the NBA is like other profit-driven entities its size, it studied the financial ramifications of moving the game and determined they wouldn’t be significant.
None of that changes the reality that the NBA is exercising its influence to combat a troubling law. The league has emerged as a surprisingly effective champion for equality in recent years, starting with Commissioner Adam Silver’s move to force the Clippers’ sale after racist comments made byDonald Sterling.
Change in this country often results from economic force, and that is what Silver and the NBA are using. Charlotte stands to lose millions of dollars. Hotels that were anticipated being at capacity on All-Star weekend will now have plenty of empty rooms. There will be empty tables in restaurants and unoccupied stools in bars.
Business leaders presumably will complain to their elected officials about how much this cost them, which will theoretically set in motion the mechanisms necessary to overturn the law — that is, if it isn’t blocked first by a federal judge who will start hearing arguments next month about whether it violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The price of HB2 is really starting to add up for North Carolina. Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and violinist Itzhak Perlman have already canceled concerts in the state. PayPal scrapped plans to open an operations center in Charlotte that would have created 400 jobs.
The NBA has offered North Carolina an incentive to do something within the next couple of years, saying in a statement that Charlotte could be awarded the 2019 All-Star game provided “there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.” While controversy-averse Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan didn’t call for a repeal of HB2, he said in a statement he was “pleased” with the league’s offer.
There is also symbolic value to what the NBA did. The league’s impact on American culture over the last 30 years has been profound; any stand the league takes is bound to spread.
“Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community — current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans,” the league said in a statement. “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.”
But why stop there?
The league should move the game to Orlando, where at least 49 people were killed in a shooting at gay nightclub last month. Now that would really make a statement.