Second Thoughts: Rocky Top’s HB2

Last week the ACC and the NCAA announced new locations for all the championship events they moved out of North Carolina to protest House Bill 2. The ACC is moving games to South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Kentucky; the NCAA is moving games to California, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Massachusetts and Tennessee.

So just so we’re all on the same page: thanks to HB2, North Carolina is now officially even more anti-LGBT than South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, and Tennessee. (And also California, Florida and Massachusetts, but we knew that already.)

But I have a little bone to pick with the NCAA – because one of those states is Tennessee.

Listen to Aaron’s commentary.


What’s wrong with Tennessee, you ask?

Let’s go back to HB2. It’s been called the worst piece of anti-LGBT legislation in America, but let’s talk about why.

(Here’s the full text of House Bill 2 as enacted by the General Assembly, if you want to follow along.)

Part 1 of the bill denies transgender people the right to use the restroom in accordance with their gender identity – but not many states protect that right. Part 3 of the bill effectively legalizes anti-LGBT discrimination – but as Pat McCrory has (correctly!) said, North Carolina is one of 28 states that do not ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. There are 27 other states where you can still fire me for being gay and I can refuse to serve you for being transgender – including seven of the nine states that just got ACC and NCAA championship games. What gives?

What gives is a particular provision of HB2, something that sets our law apart from all those others. It’s in part 3 of the bill, which lists all the reasons you’re not allowed to discriminate. HB2 bans discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex, and handicap – but not sexual orientation and not gender identity, so you can legally discriminate on those grounds. That much is true in 27 other states too.

Here’s a handy visual aid, from the LGBT Movement Advancement Project.

But House Bill 2 goes one step further. Not only does the state refuse to protect LGBT people, they also ban local governments from passing ordinances to add categories that aren’t covered by the state. Even if Chapel Hill or Orange County wanted to protect LGBT people from discrimination, HB2 forbids them from doing so.

And that is what sets House Bill 2 apart. Factor that in and suddenly there aren’t 27 other states just like us – there are two. There are only two other states in America with laws as anti-LGBT as ours.

But here’s the thing:

One of those two states is Tennessee! (Arkansas is the other.)

So why is it okay for the NCAA to host the Division III men’s and women’s tennis championships in Chattanooga?

I call shenanigans!

Now there is an actual explanation for this, which the NCAA spelled out in a statement last month. It’s Part 1 of the bill, the “bathroom” stuff, that really put the ACC and the NCAA over the top. It’s true that not many states explicitly protect the right of transgender people to use the restroom in accordance with their gender identity – but North Carolina is unique in making it clear that transgender people who do so are breaking the law. That’s what spurred the NCAA to move games to Tennessee. At least in Chattanooga, the venue can allow people to use the bathroom as their gender identity dictates, without having to worry about a trespassing citation. (Venues can do that here in North Carolina too if they’re privately owned, which is why Duke still gets to host the ACC men’s lacrosse championship.)

But if the NCAA is serious about taking a stand – and I am 100 percent in favor of them if they are – then I think we ought to take a stand against those other two states as well. No more championship games in North Carolina, or Arkansas, or Tennessee.

And if Chattanooga has a problem with that – let ‘em call me.

Sports can make a difference. Let’s make it happen.

ACC Expanding Baseball Tournament

The Atlantic Coast Conference is restructuring the conference’s baseball tournament.

The changes include expanding the field to 12 teams and culminating in a four-team, single-elimination bracket to determine the league’s champion.

The conference is one of the best overall leagues in collegiate baseball annually and over the last few years the league has limited the conference tournament to the league’s top 10 records from the regular season.

The winners of four three-team pools will advance to the semifinal.

UNC missed the ACC tournament last season, despite being No. 19 in the nation’s RPI rankings; Carolina was the highest ranked team not to make the NCAA Tournament after missing the conference tournament.

The 2017 Championship will be held in late May at Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, Kentucky. The 2017 conference tournament was scheduled to be held in Durham but was moved over North Carolina’s House Bill 2.

The expansion of the ACC Tournament was made at the conference’s fall meeting, which was held in Chapel Hill this week.

With HB2, The Hits Keep On Coming. How Should We Respond?

Last weekend, the Triangle hosted the 32nd annual North Carolina Pride Festival – a celebration of North Carolina’s LGBT community, in a year when HB2 has made “North Carolina” synonymous in many eyes with “anti-gay.”

When NC Pride first began, back in 1985, being anti-gay wasn’t so much of a black eye – economically speaking, it was more dangerous to be perceived as pro-gay. But some things have changed: the passage of House Bill 2 in March sparked a backlash and a boycott that has already cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. (And tourism officials, like Laurie Paolicelli of the Orange County Visitors Bureau, say the worst of it is likely yet to come.)

Ironically, though, most of those lost dollars have come in the form of canceled concerts, canceled conventions, canceled sporting events, canceled business expansions, and canceled related travel plans. And all of that primarily affects North Carolina’s urban centers, Charlotte, the Triad, the Triangle, Wilmington and Asheville – the most LGBT-friendly, anti-HB2 places in the state.

As a result, the leaders of those communities have been in a quandary all year. How do you support those who have spoken out so strongly against a law you find abhorrent – while also lamenting the lost events, the lost opportunities, the lost jobs and the lost revenue? How do you promote business, travel, tourism and the arts in Chapel Hill, to people who are denouncing and boycotting North Carolina?

That’s the challenge facing Laurie Paolicelli at the Orange County Visitors Bureau. Prior to HB2’s passage, the OCVB launched a national campaign to attract LGBT tourists to the Chapel Hill area – and Paolicelli says it’s still generating interest, in spite of the state’s reputation.


From the Orange County Visitors Bureau’s new LGBT campaign.

Still, Paolicelli says, HB2 has cost our community a great deal – starting with more than $1.2 million in lost revenue from canceled conferences and travel plans, including the cancellation of a Public Management Research Association conference at UNC that alone would have generated close to half a million dollars. Paolicelli says Orange County also suffers when other communities in the area are hit: hotels fill up in Chapel Hill when Pinehurst holds golf tournaments, so Chapel Hill will almost certainly be affected by the loss of championship events in Durham (ACC baseball) and Cary (NCAA championships).

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Paolicelli says there’s one significant bit of good news: the North American Travel Journalists Association is going ahead with their planned conference in Chapel Hill next May (though not without some internal debate), and having all those travel journalists in town will give Orange County a chance to showcase its LGBT-friendly vibe and its commitment to social justice. But she says that’s not likely to offset all the losses from HB2 – not just from previously-scheduled travel plans being canceled, but from all the people and all the organizations who won’t even consider Orange County as a destination in the first place.

How many people is that? How many organizations? It’s impossible to say.

Laurie Paolicelli discussed the effects of HB2 on WCHL with Aaron Keck.


The dilemma also hits those who oppose HB2 and support the fight against it, even though they’d personally benefit from the events that are being lost. Of course that includes the owners and managers of hotels and other tourist-friendly businesses – but it also includes Tar Heel student-athletes, who are losing nearby championship games.

UNC senior Ezra Baeli-Wang is a member of the Tar Heel fencing team, the president of the ACC’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and the co-chair of the SAAC at UNC-Chapel Hill. Like all UNC student-athletes, Baeli-Wang was directly affected, in a negative way, by the NCAA’s decision to pull championship events from North Carolina – but he’s also been vocally opposed to House Bill 2, and supportive of the ongoing efforts to fight back against it. This is what he wrote, in an open letter to the campus community following the NCAA’s decision:

As a Tar Heel, this decision is bittersweet. It is heartening to see the governing body in collegiate athletics take a stand against state-sanctioned discrimination and recognize its primary commitment to the safety and inclusion of all the people who make college sports possible. On the other hand, as an athlete, it is devastating to see my teammates and peers lose the opportunity to compete for their friends and family in their home state. This is only the latest in a string of injustices that HB2 has inflicted on UNC’s and North Carolina’s community, and by no means the most egregious. This bill is damaging for everyone—for businesses, for families, for teachers, coaches, students and student-athletes, and especially for all those whom it oppresses. It opposes everything that Carolina stands for, and, in the words of ACC Commissioner John Swofford, it is “counter to basic human rights.”

On behalf of Carolina Athletics, and from one Tar Heel to another, HB2 must be seen for what it is: an act of violence against our community, an attack on the core values of the University of North Carolina. To enforce this law, or even to continue to remain silent, would be to turn our backs on each other. For us, that is not an option. So in closing, I want to reaffirm that Carolina will not waver from its commitment to fairness, inclusion, and ensuring that all who visit this campus for athletic events or otherwise are, and always will be, welcome.

Ezra Baeli-Wang spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


Baeli-Wang says he’s received support for his stance from other Tar Heel student-athletes – as well as high-ranking administrators at UNC-Chapel Hill, including Chancellor Carol Folt and AD Bubba Cunningham. (UNC’s official position, via system president Margaret Spellings, is merely that the NCAA and ACC’s decisions are “disappointing,” because the move penalizes UNC even though it’s not enforcing HB2. Baeli-Wang’s statement echoes that sentiment, but takes a clearer stance against the bill itself.)

In the end, though, one thing is clear: LGBT people across the nation may be steering clear of North Carolina, but HB2 hasn’t silenced the LGBT community that’s living in North Carolina right now. Thousands of people lined the streets in Durham last weekend and cheered for the largest NC Pride parade in the event’s history – a parade made all the more relevant by the ongoing fight over HB2.

Chansky’s Notebook: What’s The Number?

The most important numbers were missing in the new ACC TV deal.


The ACC needed to make a big splash with its TV rights, given the 40-plus million per school the BIG 10, SEC and Pac-12 are about to distribute each year. At last calculation, the ACC schools were getting annual checks for about $25 million each, which drives athletic directors and coaches crazy because they wind up further behind in the athletics arms race, coaching salaries and recruiting budgets, not to mention fewer Olympic Sports on TV.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford could not afford to say at this year’s football media confab that it was still status quo with TV — that the conference and ESPN continue planning an exclusive ACC Network but details are yet to come. Instead, the large numbers Swofford rolled out were how many years the ACC and ESPN would now be in bed together – through 2036 when Swofford will be 88 years old. They talked about some kind of 24-hour ACC Network that ESPN would produce starting in 2019, but never quite distinguished between cable TV, linear distribution and digital streaming, since no one really knows the viewers’ format of choice by then.

Perhaps the most important number was extension of grant of rights by each ACC school, meaning if Clemson or Florida State decided to bolt for the SEC, their TV rights would remain with the ACC. Exactly how that would work is also ambiguous, since when Maryland left for the Big 10 there were lawsuits and counter suits that resulted in a settlement.

The big number we are all still waiting for from the ACC is, when all of these new networks and alliances wash out, just how much more per school will be distributed. That is the eight-figure digit the ADs and business managers need to put down on the revenue side of their annual budgets. And all the ACC could say was the split and distributions would be increased, but by how much is still anyone’s guess. And a guess is far from a guarantee, which the BIG 10, SEC and Pac-12 already have through their own established TV networks.

ACC Network Now Official

The long-awaited ACC Network is coming to a television near you in three years and your streaming device much sooner.

The announcement was made official Thursday morning at the Atlantic Coast Conference Kickoff media event being held in Charlotte.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford and ESPN President John Skipper – both UNC graduates – announced the 20-year partnership with the conference the cable-sports giant.

As part of the agreement, more than 600 exclusive live events from across the conference will be made available via a digital live-events channel – “ACC Network Extra” – beginning this August.

A television channel would then launch under the ESPN umbrella in 2019. That network would be home to “450 exclusive live events, including 40 regular-season football games, more than 150 men’s and women’s basketball games, more than 200 other regular-season contests and tournament games from across the conference’s 27-sponsored events,” according to a release. Officials say the network will also include a “component of news and information shows and original programming.”

ESPN President John Skipper:

“We look forward to working with our longtime partners at the ACC to create a network that reflects the depth and quality of its athletes and teams, and serves the fans who passionately support them. We are proud and excited to add the ACC Network to our industry-leading college content offerings.”

ACC Commissioner John Swofford:

“On behalf of the ACC Council of Presidents, Faculty Athletics Representatives and our ACC Television Committee, we are tremendously pleased to further enhance our long-term partnership with ESPN that includes the creation of the ACC Network and ACC Network Extra, and positions the conference for the long-term future. This partnership continues to be a win-win for ESPN and the ACC. ESPN is the premier provider in sports content and this agreement will deliver unprecedented coverage to our fans, while highlighting our quality student-athletes, coaches and institutions.”

UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham:

“ESPN is the leader in the distribution of live sports broadcasting and our league’s partnership with the network has been strengthened.  The agreement today extends our rights with ESPN and ensures Carolina’s athletic programs will receive a tremendous amount of exposure across a variety of network platforms for many years to come.  With this agreement, Carolina and the ACC are well positioned for future coverage of our outstanding teams and their successes.”

UNC head football coach Larry Fedora:

“The addition of the ACC Network strengthens our brand and provides another platform to showcase all of our outstanding teams at North Carolina.  ESPN has been a great partner with the ACC for many years and a stand-alone channel demonstrates the network’s continued dedication to our conference.”

ACC Network Announcement Expected at ACC Media Days

Thursday will bring the unofficial beginning of the 2016 football season with the convening of the Atlantic Coast Conference Media Days.

Representatives from all of the ACC members will migrate to Charlotte for the 45th Annual ACC Football Kickoff.

UNC will be represented in the Queen City by coach Larry Fedora, senior wide receiver Ryan Switzer and senior cornerback Des Lawrence.

The media members will also make selections for preseason awards and project the order in which teams will finish in each division as part of the pomp of the gathering.

The biggest news is expected right off the bat early Thursday morning when ACC Commissioner John Swofford is set to deliver his Commissioner’s address. After years of speculation regarding the ACC Network launching with ESPN in some way or another, representatives from the cable sports giant are set to join Swofford at 10 o’clock Thursday morning for an announcement.

The News & Observer reported earlier in the week that the conference and ESPN were closing in on a deal to launch a digital network for 2016 and an ACC cable channel in 2019 as part of a newly negotiated television deal.

The Commissioner’s address is set for 10 o’clock Thursday morning.

Record Number of Tar Heels Make ACC Academic Honor Roll

A record number of UNC students have been named to the 2015-16 Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll, the university announced.

From Carolina, 356 student-athletes – including the above-pictured Marcus Paige – were named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll that recognizes student athletes who participated in a varsity-level sport and achieved a 3.0 grade point average or better.

This year’s total of 4,367 student-athletes was a record for the ACC. UNC’s previous high was 347 Tar Heels in 2013-14.

For the complete Academic Honor Roll, click here.

Chansky’s Notebook: ACC 4th In Money Race

The ACC is making more than ever but still not enough.

Today’s column on the Warriors winning another NBA championship has been postponed because LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, with 41 points apiece, were both money for the Cleveland Cavaliers. So, while we wait for Game Six Thursday, let’s talk about some real money – what the ACC made in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

According to tax returns, the ACC made more than $400 million last year, the highest in its history, and distributed more than $26 million each to its 14 full member schools. That’s the good news. The bad news is the ACC was fourth among the so-called Power Five conferences, ahead of only the 10-school Big 12. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac 12 all made more money and dispersed more per school than the ACC, about $8 million more. And it would have been closer to $10 million had the ACC not received a one-time payment of $32 million from Maryland, when it bolted to the Big Ten.

Now, all this seems like Monopoly money, but it’s still a serious handicap when ACC members are forced to operate with significantly less revenue than the SEC, Big Ten and Pac 12 schools, which all have their own cable television networks while the ACC is still trying to figure out how to get more money and exposure from its ESPN contract that runs another 10 years. Olympic sports are paying the price.

What does 10 million more dollars buy you today? Higher salaries for coaches, bigger recruiting budgets, more elaborate and efficient team travel arrangements and maybe some capital improvements for Olympic sports programs. And the TV networks of the SEC, Big Ten and Pac 12 do something else besides produce more money. They put their teams on the tube more than the ACC.

UNC’s Olympic sports are amazing, when you consider Tar Heel teams are perennial contenders for national titles, like the two won in lacrosse this year. They recruit against schools from other leagues whose teams play more times on TV. That is a considerable recruiting DIS-advantage that no one thought about when all these plans were being made. But it’s real and why the ACC’s 400 million still isn’t enough.

Watts, Walker Honored by ACC Ahead of Tournament Tipoff Wednesday

Members of the North Carolina women’s basketball team have been honored by the Atlantic Coast Conference ahead of the conference tournament beginning on Wednesday.

UNC guard Stephanie Watts was selected as the ACC Freshman of the Year, the league announced on Wednesday.

Watts won ACC Rookie of the Week honors four times over the course of the season, more than any other first-year players, and finished at No. 10 in the conference scoring list, averaging 14.5 points per game. The Wesley Chapel native also checks in among the conference’s leaders with 1.3 blocks per game. Watts led the Tar Heels in scoring 11 times, including posting a career-high 30 points versus NC State on February 21.

Watts was also named to the All-ACC second team, on Tuesday. Watts and teammate Destinee Walker both earned selections to the conference’s All-Freshman team.

Walker, from Orlando, Florida, scored in double figures 27 times during the season – the most among ACC freshman – and averaged 14 points per game.

Walker, Watts and the rest of the Tar Heels will be in action on Wednesday in the ACC Tournament matching up against Pittsburgh.

Tipoff is scheduled for one o’clock. The game can be heard live on 97.9 FM/1360 AM WCHL.

ACC Remembers Vicious Rasheed Wallace Dunk Against Duke

In case you needed a reminder, the biggest rivalry in college basketball – which many in this area would argue is the biggest rivalry in sports, period – will be rekindled on Wednesday when the Duke Blue Devils travel to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels, assuming there’s no inclement weather.

This game makes everyone feel a bit nostalgic, even those with the Atlantic Coast Conference Digital Network.

The ACCDN shared a video on Monday of a now-famous Rasheed Wallace dunk from the March, 1994, matchup between the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils in Durham.

UNC went on to win that game against Duke 87-77.

The Tar Heels are coming off of an 85-64 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday, while the Blue Devils knocked off Virginia, in Cameron Indoor Stadium, on a last-second shot from Grayson Allen on Saturday.

The next chapter in the rivalry is set for nine o’clock Wednesday night in Chapel Hill. WCHL’s coverage will begin at seven o’clock with the UNC Health Care Countdown to Tipoff.