Before praising the NCAA and Mark Emmert for their bold stance in North Carolina, let me get a few things out of the way.
I find the NCAA to be the land of hypocrisy.
I adore the sports, count among its head coaches a number of friends, and admire the athletes who compete — all while fervently believing the organization that governs them uses the notion of “amateurism” as a shield for its greed. I would not, by a long stretch, describe Emmert as the paragon of all that is right and good and celebratory about sports.
But sometimes the most important moments come from those you least expect. Sometimes, big steps forward come from those you had no idea would be inclined to move in such directions.
Count Emmert and the NCAA now as firmly in that camp, and give them the credit they deserve. This week, by pulling seven national championship events out of North Carolina as a protest and response to the state’s controversial and clearly discriminatory House Bill 2, an organization often contemptible did something hard, unpopular, potentially costly and overwhelmingly correct.
You could call it brave, even, because those accustomed to living above the rules rarely wade into waters as choppy and potentially undesirable as these. They stood up for the rights of those they didn’t have to protect. That’s courage, whatever the reasons behind it.
Think I’m being ridiculous? That I’m a liberal shill? Some out-of-state, know-nothing, nerd-fest writer who doesn’t understand North Carolina’s unique, nuanced and unknowable culture? Cool. Let’s defer then to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, maybe the greatest college basketball coach of all time and a man who not only attended West Point and served in the United States Army but has led this country to an embarrassing amount of Olympic riches. Coach K is thus a great American and also one of that state’s most prized and important people.
“I said during the start of our practice sessions in Vegas, when asked about HB2, I said it’s embarrassing,” he told Business Insider this week. “And it still is embarrassing.”
It sure is.
The North Carolina law, as you’ve surely heard, is now at the center of the culture wars and our political discourse, though most right-minded folks like Coach K see it as a clear attack on people in the public space because of their sexual orientation. Now we haven’t seen proof there are a lot of not-so-clear-minded folks out there as well.
HB2 has been described as a law that discriminates against the LGBT community, largely because it does.
This isn’t politics. Be blindly loyal to any party, but not at the expense of fellow Americans who may be blindly loyal to the other side. This is about human decency and the right — perhaps the most important right in building the American Dream and American ideal — that in this country we all get a fair shot at life, love, happiness and trying to do the best we can with whatever time we have left.
Let’s try to leave politics aside and agree on this: Whatever you believe in your own home, people in this country have a right to be treated equally. And an organization associated with our universities — places that, by their nature, pull a vast swath of the American experience to one place — should be at the forefront of this.
The NCAA is now.
The NBA pulling its upcoming All-Star Game from Charlotte? The right decision, though not one likely to have a lasting effect on North Carolina. It’s a one-off. A single game. An easy thing to dismiss for the bigots and the misinformed who want to pretend that some commissioner in New York City doesn’t know their state the way they do, thank you very much.
But the ACC sure knows North Carolina. They’re based in the Tar Heel State. Their employees live and work there. And they, following Emmert and the NCAA’s lead, announced Tuesday that they’re pulling all of their neutral-site championship events from North Carolina for the 2016-17 season. That’s 14 of the conference’s 21 championships, including December’s ACC football title game. It had been slated for Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. No longer.
That hits closer to home.
That’s football and, with respect to the non-revenue championships the NCAA pulled, a much bigger punishment.
And that makes the NCAA at the forefront of doing the right thing even though — certainly in ACC country — it will be the furthest thing from overwhelmingly popular.
Look, not all just causes are fought by the just. Not all moments that history will look back and celebrate happen at the hands of people you’d want to emulate.
Larry Flynt was a First Amendment pioneer. Jose Canseco helped blow the lid off Major League Baseball’s steroids infestation. Napoleon’s reign sparked the modern era’s legislative success stories. Steve Jobs might have been a jerk, but there’s a good chance you’re reading this on one of his devices.
And now the NCAA, when not printing money under the false pretense that its multi-billion-dollar empire is an amateur sport and therefore should command free labor, is helping take a huge shot at one of our country’s most discriminatory and un-American laws.
A mark of decency from an organization whose core mission I happen to find ridiculous and false, or a savvy public relations stunt meant to be on the (clearly) right side of history?
The NCAA just did something that has nothing to do with dollars, sports or its own short-term interests.
There’s a first time for everything, including this: I salute you, Mark Emmert.
Source: CBS Sports / NCAA, ACC take a brave stand against HB2 and line up on right side of history