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.


UNC Soccer Star Named ACC Men’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year

UNC senior defender Jonathan Campbell has been named the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the conference announced Tuesday.

Campbell started all 20 games for the Tar Heels in 2015 and scored one goal and accumulated four assists from his defense position.

Campbell was selected with the number 12 pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire.

Campbell earned All-America honors for his play and for his performance in the classroom during his senior campaign for the Tar Heels.

This marked the fourth time Campbell, who graduated in December, was named to the All-ACC Academic Team. He is the only member of the team to receive the honor four times.

Carolina sophomore David October and freshman Alex Comsia were also named to Academic All-Conference team. It was the first selection for both.


James Worthy Named ACC Legend

Former UNC star forward James Worthy has been named to this year’s class of ACC Basketball Legends.

Worthy, along with 13 others will receive their honor during the ACC Tournament March 8-12 in Washington, D.C.

Worthy was the 1982 National Player of the Year and led the Tar Heels to a NCAA title, the first under Dean Smith.

He was a two-time All-American and was the first overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft.

His winning and dominant play continued at the professional level. Worthy was part of three NBA championship teams and was a seven-time All-Star.

The number 52 was retired at UNC, and he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2003.

The legends will be features at the Legends Luncheon, on Friday March 11. See the ACC’s website for more details.

The 2016 ACC Legends Class:

Jim Hooley, Forward, Boston College

Grayson Marshall, Guard, Clemson

Jason Willams, Guard, Duke

Rowland Garrett, Forward, Florida State

BJ Elder, Guard, Georgia Tech

Darrell Griffith, Guard, Louisville

John Salmons, Forward, Miami

James Worthy, Forward, North Carolina

Anthony “Spud” Webb, Guard, NC State

Adrian Dantley, Forward, Notre Dame

Charles Smith, Forward, Pitt

Derrick Coleman, Forward, Syracuse

Norman Nolan, Forward, Virginia

Howard Pardue, Forward, Virginia Tech

Dave Odom, Head Coach, Wake Forest