Citing House Bill 2, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford announced Wednesday afternoon that the conference would move neutral-site athletic championships out of the state, including the football title game that has been held in Charlotte.
The move affects 10 championships, including women's basketball and soccer, golf, and tennis, in addition to football. Replacement sites will be announced in the future.
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority estimated the loss of the football championship alone will cost the city upwards of $30 million of economic impact. In 2015, the authority estimated the championship game brought 54,000 attendees and $32.4 million of economic impact, including $16.7 million of direct visitor spending.
The move comes two days after the NCAA pulled seven championships and events from North Carolina, including men's basketball tournament dates, also citing HB2, a law that requires people to use public restrooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate and limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.
Even as the ink was still drying on the ACC's announcement, reaction poured in from around the Triangle.
"For the sports event industry in North Carolina, this week has been unprecedented and historically bad, probably the worst ever in terms of lost business and damage to our brand," said Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, a group that promotes tourism in the area by coordinating sporting events, both professional and amateur. "Once the NCAA made its announcement on Monday, this ACC decision was inevitable. Looking ahead, I am very concerned about other sports organizations that may be next in line."
Republican lawmakers who helped pass the legislation, lamented the loss of athletic events, but continued to defend the law and the state. "The truth remains that this law was never about and does not promote discrimination," House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican from Cleveland County, said through a released statement. "We will continue to advocate that North Carolina is a great place to live, do business, hold events and to visit."
In a joint statement, Chancellor Randy Woodson of N.C. State University and Chancellor Carol L. Folt of UNC-Chapel Hill affirmed their stance on "welcoming and supporting all people," but added that "we regret today’s decision will negatively affect many North Carolinians, especially in the affected host communities."
In its announcement, the ACC Council of Presidents released the following statement:
"As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination. Every one of our 15 universities is strongly committed to these values and therefore, we will continue to host ACC Championships at campus sites. We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year."
In addition, Commissioner Swofford added his own statement:
"The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount. Today's decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships."
Neutral site championships that will move out of North Carolina, in date order:
- Women's Soccer
- Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving
- Women's Basketball
- Men's and Women's Tennis
- Women's Golf
- Men's Golf