Hurricanes Statement on Discriminatory Law in North Carolina is Good First Step

The Carolina Hurricanes have joined a flurry of voices coming out against a discriminatory new law in North Carolina.

The law, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday, takes away previous anti-discrimination protection for gay residents of North Carolina and prevents local municipalities from enacting their own anti-discrimination laws (among other things, including preventing local government from raising minimum wages on a local level). Particularly troubling in the law is the banning of transgendered people from “bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificates.”

The law was enacted as an abrupt response to an anti-discriminatory law passed in Charlotte that “provided protections based on sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity, including letting transgender people use the public bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, not gender at birth,” as summarized by the New York Times.

The Hurricanes’ statement, issued Friday, is short and to the point:

The Carolina Hurricanes and PNC Arena are devoted to providing a welcoming and respectful environment for all fans. We stand against all forms of discrimination.

The team has been criticized for the brevity of the statement and it having something of a corporate feel. That criticism highlights the contrasts of the Hurricanes’ statement to stronger statements about the law from other corporations like Dow Chemical and Apple, as well as investors like Silicon Valley investor Chris Sacca.

In particular the NBA issued a strong statement that implicitly threatened to take away the planned 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte. In conjunction (though, importantly after the NBA) the Charlotte Hornets issued a similarly strong statement:

The Charlotte Hornets and Hornets Sports & Entertainment are opposed to discrimination in any form, and we have always sought to provide an inclusive environment. As has been the case since the building opened, we will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome while at work or attending NBA games and events at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Here’s the NBA’s statement:

The NBA is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all who attend our games and events. We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.

The NCAA is planning tournament events in the state during 2017 and 2018. They have made a similarly veiled threat, stating that they will “continue to monitor current events, which include issues surrounding diversity, in all cities bidding on N.C.A.A. championships and events, as well as cities that have already been named as future host sites.”

A Good First Step, But Work to Do

While the Hurricanes’ statement is brief and may lack teeth, it’s an acknowledgment and a protest of the law. That’s an important step for a team to take at a moment when its parent organization has not issued a statement.

Far more important than the Hurricanes’ statement will be action taken by the league itself. While they don’t have an All-Star Game on the way to use as a financial consequence like the NBA, the NHL has taken steps — particularly ambassadors like Patrick Burke, who does far more than just talk about the issues — to make hockey a more inclusive space at large.

There is a long way to go in that regard, but projects like You Can Play and Pride Tape have helped individual organizations make a strong statement toward inclusiveness.

Actions need to follow, but steps, even if they are slow and methodical, are being taken.

We saw that earlier this week when Melissa Geschwind announced that she had a meeting with NHL representatives last Friday. Geschwind was the creator of a petition to get the NHL to “take violence against women seriously.” Her petition has nearly 35,000 signatures.

In an update on the petition Tuesday, Geschwind said that more conversation will follow. “Whether that will lead to meaningful change remains to be seen, but we’re not screaming into a void.”

The North Carolina law and domestic violence issues are different, but at the heart of both issues is the need for games and the sport to be an open and safe space for all fans.

The Hurricanes have said the right things, but will need to show a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness through their actions as the situation in North Carolina continues. Even more important would be a stance from the NHL, showing that they’re going to stand by all fans of the game at the moments when it matters most.