North Carolina won’t blink. No matter what businesses and events have threatened to pull out, and which ones have already made good on those threats, state lawmakers have refused to back down from what others have described as their “controversial” laws.
When the NCAA relocated the men’s basketball regional tournament to South Carolina, that was just one more in a long line of penalties the college sports association has leveled against the state for its stand on social issues. This comes after the announcement, made last month that the NCAA would pull seven other championships out of the basketball state. These include the Division I women’s soccer championship, the Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships, the Division I women’s golf regional championships, the Division III men’s and women’s tennis championships, the Division I women’s lacrosse championship, and the Division II baseball championship.
Many of these are symbolic gestures. North Carolina cares about these events, but nothing hurts as much as losing men’s basketball in a state that, when talking about sports, is all but defined by men’s college hoops.
The irony in the NCAA returning to South Carolina is why they left in the first place. The NCAA stopped hosting events in SC after the state refused to stop flying the Confederate flag on Statehouse grounds. Well, now the flag is down, and the state is back in the good graces of the league. That’s not to say opinions in South Carolina have changed, but appearances have, and that seems to be enough for the NCAA.
And, at the moment, North Carolina is the national whipping boy of those pushing for social change. After the governor signed a law which would require school kids – and adults – to use the bathroom corresponding to their birth sex, folks across the country revolted, pushing North Carolina right to the top of their target list.
In the aftermath, entertainers and retailers pulled out of the state. Venues closed and longtime event planners found other places to send their business. The NCAA, though, was the harshest loss. It strikes to the very heart of the state’s identity to lose basketball. But, at the moment, it’s a sacrifice they seem fully willing to make.