Kirk Schultz doesn't mention North Carolina once in a short video posted to the the National Collegiate Athletics Association's YouTube channel this week. But as chair of the board of governors of the NCAA, Schultz doesn't really have to. In announcing his organization's new anti-discrimination measures, Schultz's message—and its intended target—seems clear: Laws like North Carolina's so-called "bathroom bill" could seriously jeopardize that state's chances of hosting any college championship tournament until things change.
This week, NCAA leadership voted to implement a new set of requirements for sites both bidding on and hosting college sports events across divisions and genders. According to a statement posted to the organization's website, these new rules will require sites to "demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event."
North Carolina, whose recent passage of HB2 has roundly been criticized as legalizing discrimination against transgender individuals, is currently slated to host several rounds of college basketball's March Madness tournaments in both 2017 and 2018. Per the NCAA's new guidelines, however, the onus seems now to be on the cities of Greensboro and Charlotte to show how they will create the discrimination-free atmosphere required for hosting—or risk losing the games, entirely. In a statement to ESPN, the NCAA explains:
Currently awarded sites must report how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event. The information must be reported to the Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee to Promote Cultural Diversity and Equity, and full implementation is expected during the current bidding process.
The loss—and even just the risk of losing—an NCAA tournament is one that is sure to be acutely felt in North Carolina, where devotion to college basketball in particular boarders on the religious. While NBA commissioner Adam Silver has already indicated a willingness to move the 2017 All-Star game out of Charlotte if the law isn't changed or repeals, losing the college championships would perhaps be seen as an even more significant blow—economically, and psychologically—to the home of both Duke and UNC's top tier hoops programs.
Beyond North Carolina, the NCAA's new standards will also likely affect both Mississippi and Tennessee, states which have recently passed sweeping legislation targeting their LGBT communities.
"The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds," says Schultz, who also serves as president for Kansas State University, on the NCAA's website. "So it is important that we assure that community—including our student-athletes and fans—will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination."
The NCAA's announcement comes shortly after basketball legend and former UNC star player Michael Jordan announced that the Charlotte Hornets, the team for which he is a co-owner, is "opposed to discrimination in any form" and has "always sought to provide an inclusive environment."