Yesterday, we asked Lt. Governor Dan Forest for a response to the NBA pulling the All-Star Game out of Charlotte, and if he still agrees with his press secretary’s comments (in a March 24 email obtained in a public records request) about the NBA: “Hey NBA…Time warner arena can let transgenders (sic) in their bathrooms if they want! Shaking my head.”
Forest’s press secretary sent us the lieutenant governor’s rambling statement yesterday. Today, he responded to the other question, and told us we don’t understand HB 2.
“In response to your question as to whether I agree with a statement made by my Press Secretary regarding the restrooms in the Time Warner Arena, I do agree with that statement,” Forest said. “Your question itself shows a misunderstanding of House Bill 2. Although Charlotte owns the arena, it is under the control and authority of the Charlotte Hornets as the leaseholder. House Bill 2 does not apply in the least to the Time Warner Arena when it comes to how the Hornets set its own restroom policy. As we have said over and over again, private businesses are able to set whatever policies they want on restrooms. It was only the City Council of Charlotte who dictated to a private business what policy it had to set.”
“Jamey was right in questioning why the NBA would oppose a bill that had absolutely no impact on any anti-discrimination or restroom access policies of the NBA or its teams,” Forest added.
Yes, Time Warner Cable Arena can set its own “restroom policy.” But that’s not the point. Transgender people who wanted to attend the All-Star game can not sleep in Time Warner Cable Arena; they can’t only eat in Time Warner Cable Arena, or shop there, or go to the bathroom there. They have to use other places of business and facilities during their visit to Charlotte. And, as anyone who actually read the law knows, businesses can refuse to serve LGBT customers, not just prevent transgender people from using their bathrooms.
Those companies may not be as welcoming as the Charlotte Hornets, or the NBA. They might take the same view as Dan Forest, which is that “transgenders” and Charlotte are the ones who are actually doing the discriminating.
The NBA disagrees. From their statement:
The LGBT community and groups like Equality NC and the ACLU have been saying all of this for years, since legislating anti-LGBT discrimination isn’t a new trend in North Carolina by a longshot. But even losing the NBA All-Star game, an event which was poised to funnel millions of dollars in local revenue and business into the North Carolina economy, couldn’t sway the North Carolina Republican Party – which claims to be the party of business – to do the right thing for its people and abandon its culture warrior nonsense for once, which shows just how much of a stranglehold that groups like the NC Values Coalition have on North Carolina Republicans.
“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. 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.
“We are particularly mindful of the impact of this decision on our fans in North Carolina, who are among the most passionate in our league. It is also important to stress that the City of Charlotte and the Hornets organization have sought to provide an inclusive environment and that the Hornets will continue to ensure that all patrons – including members of the LGBT community – feel welcome while attending games and events in their arena.
“Safety” is a word Forest and McCrory are so fond of using, but they clearly have no concern about the safety of the 70 percent of transpeople who experience harassment or even abuse while trying to use a bathroom. And considering the increased scrutiny on transpeople that is a direct result of HB 2, and that bigots have been emboldened by House Bill 2 to harass women walking into bathrooms, there’s no way that the NBA can ensure that one of its top annual events will be a safe place for its LGBT fans.
Of course, Dan Forest doesn’t understand that this is a civil rights issue, or whose safety has really been compromised by HB 2, because as a white Christian man who is the son of a former Congresswoman, he doesn’t know what a real struggle for rights looks like.
As the decisions of the NBA and countless other organizations shows, ignorance is no longer an excuse.