Local Leaders Ask for Peaceful Protests in Charlotte

Eyes around the world have been focused on Charlotte over the last few days after an African-American police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott – an African-American man – on Tuesday afternoon.

Police officials say officers were going to serve a warrant at an apartment complex on Tuesday when they noticed Scott, who was not the subject of the warrant. Police say Scott exited his vehicle with a handgun and then reentered his vehicle.

Authorities say police then ordered Scott to drop his weapon before shots were fired.

Scott’s family has maintained he didn’t have a handgun but was rather holding a book. Police say a weapon was recovered from the scene.

Protests have been held in Charlotte over the last two days. After pleas were made by city leadership and the Scott family that the protests be peaceful, they have turned violent with police in riot gear using tear gas on protesters. One protester was also shot on Wednesday night and was in critical condition at last update – after police initially said the victim had died. Police say that shot did not come from law enforcement, but protesters have said police did fire that shot.

Amidst all of the protests, advocacy groups have called for the body cam and dash cam footage to be released by police. Authorities have said they do not plan to publicly release the footage.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt sent a message to the campus community on Thursday saying, “Like all of you, I have been watching the tragic events unfolding in Charlotte and around the country with great sadness.”

Folt wrote that, “On behalf of the Carolina Community, I want to extend our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected and ask that peaceful and constructive dialogue replace the violence and unrest that has overtaken so much of our nation.

“We all realize that these events, and especially so close to our home, can be very unsettling and create fear and uncertainty among members of our community – many of whom still feel unwelcomed or excluded from full acceptance in our country and our own campus.”

Folt said that counseling services were available to students, faculty and staff.

Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan also issued a statement on Thursday calling for peaceful protest.

“First, I want to express my condolences to the Scott family for their loss. I also wish for a full recovery to those who have been injured.

“In light of the tragic events of the past three days, it is more important than ever that we restore calm and come together, as a community, in peaceful demonstration and conversation, and in constructive and non-violent ways. As part of the fabric of Charlotte, the Hornets organization is committed to working with civic leaders, our elected leaders and law enforcement to foster more trust, transparency and understanding so we can heal and grow together as a community.”

Skip Foreman is with the Associated Press and is based in Charlotte. Foreman spoke with WCHL about the shooting on Thursday morning. Foreman said the residents of the apartment complex where the shooting took place are adamant Scott did not have a gun. Meanwhile, police have been equally adamant Scott did have a weapon and brandished it.

Listen to the full interview with Foreman below:


Charlotte Refuses to Repeal Nondiscrimination Ordinance

It appears there will be no movement regarding a possible repeal of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 after a weekend full of speculation.

The conversations initially began on Friday afternoon when a hospitality lobbying group said it had information that made it believe if Charlotte were to repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance regarding bathroom use, the state would repeal HB2 – which advocates maintain is the worst piece of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation. A similar arrangement was proposed earlier in the year, but the Charlotte City Council did not move forward at that time.

The stories were coming after a week of fallout over the legislation including the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference pulling championship events from neutral sites across North Carolina due to the law.

A joint statement from Republican House Speaker Tim Moore and Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said no discussion had been held in either caucus regarding a repeal or modification of HB2. But the statement added leadership did believe there would be momentum for a full repeal, but only if Charlotte acted first.

“Although our respective caucuses have not met or taken an official position, we believe that if the Charlotte City Council rescinds its ordinance there would be support in our caucuses to return state law to where it was pre-HB 2,” GOP leadership wrote in the statement.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts stopped any speculation the state’s largest city would consider repealing its nondiscrimination ordinance.

Roberts issued a statement on Monday saying the City Council was “not prepared to add this item to our agenda” ahead of its meeting Monday night.

Roberts did call on the state to “take action as soon as possible and encourage continued dialogue with the broader community.” Roberts added that the state could overturn HB2 “at any time without any action from the City of Charlotte.”


2017 NBA All-Star Game: Charlotte’s Loss is New Orleans’ Gain

The National Basketball Association has officially chosen New Orleans as the replacement city to host the 2017 NBA All-Star game.

The move comes after the league announced that the All-Star Weekend festivities would be moved from Charlotte because of North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, which advocates maintain is the worst piece of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement in announcing the move.

“New Orleans is a world-class destination for sports and entertainment and we are very appreciative that the city is once again hosting our All-Star festivities. We are grateful to Tom and Gayle Benson and the Pelicans organization and to Governor John Bel Edwards, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation for inviting us back for what promises to be another exciting and memorable celebration of the game.”

Chad Griffin, president of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization the Human Rights Campaign, commended the NBA for choosing a city with LGBTQ protections as host of the All-Star Game.

“By moving the 2017 All-Star Game to New Orleans, the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver have sent a clear message to lawmakers in North Carolina and across the country that discrimination against LGBTQ people has consequences and will not be tolerated. New Orleans’ explicit LGBTQ non-discrimination protections will ensure all NBA employees, players, and fans who participate in the All-Star Game are protected from discrimination. Governor Pat McCrory and state lawmakers should use this as an opportunity to halt their assault on the people, reputation, and economy of North Carolina, and work toward replacing HB2 with commonsense non-discrimination protections. We look forward to the day when all North Carolinians can live their lives free from discrimination, and Charlotte is able to welcome back the All-Star Game.”

Governor Pat McCrory’s communication director Josh Ellis issued the following statement regarding the decision to move the All-Star Game to New Orleans.

“According to his own statements, Commissioner Silver has no credibility in telling America that he’s more ‘comfortable’ playing a basketball game in the People’s Republic of China with its oppressive human rights record, rather than the 9th most populous state in the U.S.A. This is another classic example of politically-correct hypocrisy gone mad. We are proud that Louisiana has joined 21 other states that are fighting for basic privacy expectations for our children and families in school restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities.”

This will mark the third time the All-Star Game will be hosted in New Orleans since the team moved to the Crescent City from Charlotte before the 2002 season.

When announcing the decision to move the 2017 festivities from Charlotte, Commissioner Adam Silver left open the possibility of returning to the Queen City for the 2019 All-Star Weekend.


NBA Pulling All-Star Game from Charlotte Over HB2

The National Basketball Association is pulling the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte over North Carolina’s House Bill 2.

The Vertical was first to report the news Thursday afternoon.

The NBA confirmed the reports in a statement released Thursday evening.

The NBA has been threatening to move the All-Star festivities for months. HB2 was passed in a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly in late March of this year. The law requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that corresponds with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity. The special session was called in late March after Charlotte voted to extend the city’s nondiscrimination policy to members of the LGBT community.

HB2 also barred localities across the state from passing nondiscrimination policies that extend beyond the state policy. The bill also prohibited residents from suing in state court over discrimination. That provision was changed during the General Assembly’s short legislative session but no other changes were made to the legislation.

The NBA statement read in part:

“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.”

The Hornets also issued a statement following the decision by the NBA, saying in part:

“We understand the NBA’s decision and the challenges around holding the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte this season. There was an exhaustive effort from all parties to keep the event in Charlotte, and we are disappointed we were unable to do so.”

Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement following the NBA’s decision to pull the All-Star Game.

“The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present.”

McCrory went on to say, “Left-wing special interest groups have no moral authority to try and intimidate the large majority of American parents who agree in common-sense bathroom and shower privacy for our children. American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”

A coalition of groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal filed a motion for a preliminary injunction stopping the implementation of HB2 in federal court. That motion will be heard in federal court on August 1. The United States Department of Justice is also locked in a legal battle with the state of North Carolina over the legislation. The lawsuits argue HB2 violates Title IX of the Education Amendments, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

North Carolina is also one of nearly two dozen states suing after President Barack Obama issued a directive earlier this year to allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity.

The NBA did leave open the option of returning the All-Star weekend to Charlotte in 2019. The NCAA Tournament is set to host early-round tournament games in North Carolina over the next two years, but those could be in jeopardy of moving as well due to HB2.


NBA Analyst Charles Barkley Will Consider Boycotting All-Star Game in Charlotte Over HB2

Basketball analyst Charles Barkley is calling on the National Basketball Association to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte over North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2.

Barkley, who has been a mainstay on Turner Sports’ Inside the NBA, spoke about HB2 while on the Dan Patrick Show.

“I’ve been trying to get the NBA to move the All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of the transgender thing,” Barkley told Patrick.

Barkley was referring to the portion of HB2 that requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that matches their birth certificate rather than their gender identity. The law also sets a statewide nondiscrimination policy and repeals any local ordinances that go beyond what the state has put in place – which does not include protections of sexual orientation, gender identity or veterans.

Another provision removes the ability to sue in state court over discrimination; Governor Pat McCrory has asked the legislature repeatedly to remove this portion of the law, but the General Assembly has not brought up any discussion to change any portion of HB2 during the short legislative session.

Barkley said he would consider boycotting the All-Star Game if it is held in Charlotte under the current law.

“I’ve told my boss, ‘I don’t want to act like I’m jumping on a sword,’” Barkley said. “But I’ve talked to [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver, we need to move the All-Star Game.”

Barkley added, “I hope they don’t put me in a situation where I have to boycott the All-Star Game; we need to move the All-Star Game.”

Silver said recently that the NBA would need to see definitive progress toward changing the law by the end of the summer to ensure the All-Star weekend remains in Charlotte, according to the Associated Press.

The state is locked in several legal battles over the legislation, including with the United States Department of Justice.

You can see the full interview with Barkley below:


Greensboro Lobbying to Keep NCAA Tournament Amid HB2 Backlash

It is still unclear how a new rule from the NCAA will impact the ability of certain cities in North Carolina to host the men’s basketball tournament in future years.

At least one potential host site is taking a proactive approach when fighting to keep its share of March Madness.

The NCAA Board of Governors adopted a rule last week that will require sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events to “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

This rule does not mention North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 in particular, but it was passed by the board just over one month after North Carolina’s law was passed through the General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat McCrory in a whirlwind special session on March 23.

GOP leadership has continued to call the law “common sense” legislation that protects North Carolinians. Meanwhile, the state is being sued by groups who maintain the law is among the worst pieces of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation. HB2 requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that corresponds with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity. The law also strips local nondiscrimination ordinances that went beyond the statewide policy and makes other changes to local ordinances.

Now this new legislation appears to jeopardize a tradition in the Tar Heel state, hosting NCAA Tournament basketball games – and raking in money – during the early postseason festivities.

Greensboro Coliseum vs. Time Warner Cable Arena

The new NCAA rule seems to directly impact the Greensboro Coliseum, which is owned and operated by the city, as the Coliseum prepares to host the first two rounds of the men’s basketball tournament next March.

Meanwhile, the City of Charlotte owns 2018 host site Time Warner Cable Arena, but the operations of the facility fall under the purview of the Charlotte Hornets, according to city officials.

The distinction means that it is hard to find a scenario where the Coliseum would be exempted from the portion of HB2 that requires multi-occupancy restrooms in public agencies to “be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex.”

A statement from an NCAA spokesperson said the cities would have to prove they could host the events to the NCAA.

“The information must be reported to the Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee to Promote Cultural Diversity and Equity and full implementation is expected.”

Greensboro Mayor’s Proactive Approach

From an economics standpoint, the Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau is projecting that hosting the first two rounds of the 2017 NCAA Tournament will result in nearly $14.5 million worth of an economic boost to the city.

In a letter provided to WCHL dated April 12, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan wrote to NCAA President Mark Emmert to tout the city’s inclusive nature – even before the NCAA adopted the new rule.

Vaughan wrote, “I wanted to personally assure you that the City of Greensboro is a progressive, open-minded community with a long-standing tradition of support for members of the LGBT community.”

Vaughan told Emmert that the City Council had passed a resolution opposing House Bill 2 by an 8-1 vote at a meeting on April 5 and that a 2015 evaluation from the Human Rights Campaign determined Greensboro had the highest Municipal Equality Index among any city in the Carolinas.

The letter from Vaughan said that the Coliseum “has been at the forefront of this issue, having gender neutral restrooms available for over 20 years.” Vaughan said that these facilities are offered “for the comfort and inclusion of all patrons.”

A spokesperson with the Greensboro Coliseum Complex said in an e-mail that they have not heard directly from the NCAA as of late last week and that the letter from Vaughan “hopefully addressed any potential concerns of Greensboro as a host city/site.”

Varying Levels of Enforcement

The line differentiating enforcement requirements for the Coliseum and TWC Arena is blurry, even to those trained to find them.

Trey Allen, an assistant professor of Public Law and Government at the UNC School of Government, wrote in an e-mail to WCHL that, “It seems pretty clear to me that [the multiple occupancy bathroom] requirement extends to a civic center that is owned and operated by a municipality.” But he adds, “HB2 doesn’t expressly address the extent to which its bathroom provisions apply in such a situation.” Allen went on to say that arguments could be made from each side whether TWC Arena would fall under the purview of HB2 and that “clarification by the General Assembly or the courts may be necessary to resolve this issue.”

Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, via spokesperson Mike Meno, said they believe “the best reading of HB2 is that it would apply to arenas that are owned by localities in the state.” That would go beyond the Coliseum to being enforced in a situation where the building is leased to a private tenant, as it is in Charlotte.

Officials with the City of Charlotte and within the Hornets organization did not respond to a request for comment regarding the enforcement of HB2 in TWC Arena.

No More NCAA Tournament in NC?

North Carolina has been a popular destination for the NCAA Tournament. TWC Arena has hosted the event in 2008, 2011 and 2015. The Coliseum has hosted the men’s basketball tournament games on 13 occasions, according to Vaughan’s letter to Emmert. PNC Arena in Raleigh – which is owned by the Centennial Authority, a body created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1995 – has also been a popular destination for early round games.

Whether the NCAA Tournament will be making a return trip to Tobacco Road remains to be seen.


PayPal Pulls Out of Charlotte Expansion Over HB2

PayPal, the California-based online payment company, has announced that the company “will not move forward” with a planned expansion in Charlotte because of recently-passed legislation that advocates are calling the worst anti-LGBT legislation in the nation.

PayPal announced two weeks ago that the company planned to open a new global operation center in Charlotte that would employ over 400 people, but PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman said in a release the company will now “seek an alternative location for our operations center.”

Schulman wrote, “The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.”

HB2 was passed in a special session of the General Assembly in late March after the Charlotte City Council voted to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their gender identity rather than what is on their birth certificate. The law repealed that ordinance and banned municipalities from extending nondiscrimination ordinances put in place at the state level. House Bill 2 also prohibits local government from extending other ordinances that call for employers to pay a living wage, among other things.

Our decision is a clear and unambiguous one. But we do regret that we will not have the opportunity to be a part of the Charlotte community and to count as colleagues the skilled and talented people of the region. As a company that is committed to the principle that everyone deserves to live without fear of discrimination simply for being who they are, becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable.

Schulman added that the company would “remain committed to working with the LGBT community in North Carolina to overturn this discriminatory legislation, alongside all those who are committed to equality.”

Proponents of HB2 have criticized PayPal for operating in Cuba but choosing not to expand in North Carolina since the decision was announced on Tuesday morning.


NC Leaders Voice Opposition to Charlotte LGBTQ Ordinance

The Charlotte City Council extended the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to members of the LGBTQ community at its meeting on Monday night.

The 7-4 approval vote came after several hours of public comment.

The piece of the discussion that drew the most attention was that the ordinance will allow transgender residents to use either the men’s or women’s bathroom, based on which gender the individual identifies with.

A similar ordinance was put before the council last year. It failed by a 6-5 vote.

North Carolina leaders, including Governor Pat McCrory, have voiced opposition to this action by the council and have suggested that the legislature will work to undo what the state’s largest city has done.

House Speaker Tim Moore issued the following statement on Tuesday morning:

“The Charlotte City Council has gone against all common sense and has created a major public safety issue by opening all bathrooms and changing rooms to the general public. This ordinance is impossible to regulate as intended, and creates undue regulatory burdens on private businesses. I join my conservative colleagues and Governor McCrory in exploring legislative intervention to correct this radical course.”

Lee Storrow is the executive director of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network and was formerly a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council. He spoke with WCHL’s Blake Hodge about what this ordinance does and the legal standing municipalities have to implement these changes.


UNCC Student From Hillsborough Dies From Fall

A UNC Charlotte student who died early Sunday morning has been identified as 18-year-old Joshua Robert Helm of Hillsborough.

Helm was a graduate of Northern High School in Durham and was in his freshman year. According to the News and Observer, police say Helm fell from a seventh-floor window of the 12-story Moore residence hall.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is still investigating the incident and hasn’t ruled out whether it was an accident, suicide, or something else.

The Charlotte Observer spoke with someone who lived on the same floor as Helm who said, “If anything bothered him, you couldn’t tell.”


Panthers Look To End Long Playoff Drought In 2013

CHARLOTTE – The Panthers have been a dynamite team the last two years in post-Thanksgiving Day games with a combined 9-3 record. The problem for Carolina is those games haven’t mattered much.

By starting each of the last two years 2-8, the Panthers have rendered the season’s stretch run meaningless when it comes to the playoffs.

In fact, Carolina fans haven’t had much to be excited about in December in quite some time. The Panthers haven’t been to the postseason since 2008 and haven’t won a playoff game since 2005.

Tight end Greg Olsen says this year’s team is out to change that.

Olsen says, “We can’t put ourselves in that hole and think a late six-game push is going to put us over the top when you start the season 2-8.”