North Carolina's "Bathroom Bill" and its Potential Effects Within Soccer
Will the “bathroom bill” affect the soccer field?
That’s a question the sports world is debating. Last month, after North Carolina passed legislation nullifying expanded protections for the LGBT community, and requiring transgender people to use public bathrooms that match their gender at birth, the NCAA announced it will not hold any events in cities that do not protect all residents with LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination laws.
Because the announcement refers to bidding for upcoming games – not those already planned – the 2016 Women’s College Cup will go on as scheduled in December, in Cary, N.C. However, future events there (or elsewhere in the state) would be in jeopardy.
Host cities must “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,” the NCAA has stated.
The organization, which oversees most collegiate sports in the United States, said that it considers “the promotion of inclusiveness in race, religious, sexual orientation and gender identity” to be crucial to “the well-being of student-athletes, promoting diversity in hiring practices and creating a culture of fairness.”
As debate swirled around North Carolina bill HB-2, and similar legislation in Mississippi, National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) members in the Tar Heel state assessed its impact. They talked about the effect on LGBT players and coaches, recruiting, and travel to the state by outside teams.
Referring to the NCAA’s action and other reactions, such as business boycotts, canceled concerts, and the possibility that the NBA would move its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, legendary University of North Carolina women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance noted that “there has been outrage [against the legislation] across the country, and even in this state. I stand for inclusion and making all groups feel welcome and this bill is divisive and hurts people."
However, he added, “I don’t think a boycott is the route to take. Anyone who fights these issues knows you can’t push people. They just dig their heels in more.”
Dorrance does not think the controversy will impact recruiting. In fact, he said, “my players and I feel very protected in Chapel Hill,” referring to the progressive attitudes of the college town.
Michael Martin is an openly gay goalkeeper at Wilson College in Pennsylvania. While his team is not scheduled to play in North Carolina, he said that LGBT players (whether out or closeted) on teams that do travel there might be worried. He envisions a situation where a player would decide not to accompany a team on a trip to the Tar Heel state. If that happened, he said, “I hope the coach would support that decision.”
If, as a high school players, he’d been recruited by a North Carolina school, Martin said he would cross that school off the list. “What would happen if I was refused service because I’m gay?” he asked.
And, he said, if he was a player on a club team traveling to the state for a tournament, “I’d worry the entire time.”
Brienne Smith goes further. The head coach of the women’s soccer team at Clark University in Massachusetts -- and vice chair of the NSCAA’s LGBT and Allies Membership Group -- says that because of HB-2, she would not schedule a match in North Carolina.
“I wouldn’t put a student-athlete in the position of having to make a choice about going there,” she said. “But it applies to me as an out coach as well.”
Smith believes that the Women’s College Cup should not be played in Cary. “No question,” she said. “Corporations of all kinds are stepping up to the plate, for diversity. If PayPal can do it for the people who work for them, then the NCAA has an obligation to its members -- especially those who are most vulnerable.”
Ray Alley sees a boycott or removal of a tournament differently. The longtime editor of Southern Soccer Scene, based in North Carolina, explained, “When Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in Greensboro, who was hurt? Lots of restaurant and hotel workers, many of whom might support LGBT issues. Industries that threaten to cancel conventions, meetings, etc. are threatening economic consequences in hopes of forcing change.”
Though most of the focus has been on college-age players, youth soccer organizations could be impacted too. Clubs host out-of-state teams for tournaments, and some may have LGBT coaches or players.
Katharine Eberhardt, business development director for the Raleigh-based Capital Area Soccer League, said that CASL management, and their attorneys, are monitoring HB-2.
“We look forward to hosting our annual soccer tournaments this year, and are not currently anticipating much, if any, direct impact from the bill,” Eberhardt said.
“We remain committed to our mission of creating and promoting a diverse, inclusive and family friendly environment for young soccer players and their families who travel from all parts of the country to our facilities and events."
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