You guys, we totally got punked.
Two days after NBA legend Charles Barkley called for the Assocaition to relocate its 2017 All Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina to somewhere that doesn’t openly discriminate against the LGBT community, a news report circulated on Saturday saying that the Association had done just that.
But it turns out the story, which was originally posted to a fake news website modeled after abcnews.go.com, was completely false. The situation puts journalists in the uncomfortable spot of having to take down their own articles that re-reported the “breaking” story. People who are paid to know what’s going on don’t like to admit they’ve been had.
But it puts the National Basketball Association in an even more awkward position, because now they have to cop to the fact no official stand has been taken against discriminatory practices in a state meant to hold one of the NBA’s marquee annual events. And if the All Star game goes forward as planned it’s going to look pretty bad if Fake NBA is more conscientious than Real NBA.
But let’s backtrack for a second. What is this new law in North Carolina, and why is it so bad? The official name is House Bill 2 (HB2), but it’s also called the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. HB2 requires all people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate, and in case you didn’t get that: Trans people are not legally allowed to enter the bathroom that corresponds with their correct gender unless they have had a confirmation procedure and gone through the process of getting that gender legally changed. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, HB2 also strips North Carolina’s workers of their right to sue employers for discriminatory practices. So if a person gets fired based on their gender or religion they have no legal recourse.
Since passing HB2 at the end of March, the Tarheel state has become a political pariah. Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in Greensboro. Connecticut governor Dannel Molloy signed an order banning state-funded travel to North Carolina. PayPal CEO Dan Schulman announced that his company would be scrapping a plan to open a new operations center there, which would have created 400 jobs, and a host of tech industry leaders signed a letter to North Carolina governor Pat McCrory asking him to repeal the pro-discrimination law.
And by tech leaders we mean CEOs from companies like Facebook, Apple, Lyft, Google, Salesforce, Dropbox and Tumblr. In other words: The internet just asked North Carolina to stop state-sanctioned bigotry, with Google Ventures founder Bill Maris declaring that his group would make no new investments in the state until a change is made.
Tech, of course, fancies itself a progressive industry, so it’s natural that they would be on the right side of history for this one, but the National Basketball Association dropping the hammer down on North Carolina was a pleasant surprise. After all, Jason Collins was the only active player ever to come out as gay, and he didn’t come out until 2013 – after 12 seasons in the league. He retired after his 13th season, meaning after that 18-month stretch of Collins being publicly out and playing, the NBA was once again devoid of openly gay athletes.
Consider also that Collins was the first man ever in any of the four major professional sports leagues to come out. He was the first man ever, and that was just three years ago. All of this is to say: Sports has a gay problem, and the idea that the NBA had taken such swift action to condemn a state for anti-LGBT practices was a remarkably progressive move. A definitively pro-gay move by one of the country’s most aggressively heterosexual and masculine institutions would give the LGBT community an invaluable ally.
But, it didn’t actually happen. And that’s too bad, beucase the fake quote from very real NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took an impressive stand against the North Carolina’s bad politics. In a fake press conference, here is what Silver didn’t say: “Charlotte currently does not have any anti-discrimination protection in place, something that would be vital for a large event such as the All-Star Game. We are giving the state of North Carolina 30 days to repeal [HB2] or they can expect the 2017 All-Star game to be held elsewhere. I want to make it clear that the NBA will not stand for this type of intolerance and hate.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is currently suing the state of North Carolina over HB2, but Governor McCrory has dug his (Tar)heels in, insisting that all this uproar is a result of misinformation about what the language of HB2 actually says. If you want to parse it out for yourself, a local NBC news affilliate serving the Raleigh-Durham area did a convenient fact check comparing what McCrory said to the actual truth. The summary is: Yeah. It’s pretty discriminatory.
Unfortunately, more bathroom and anti-LGBT laws are popping up in other states, too. Jessica Williams put some of them on blast in her segment about trans phobia for The Daily Show last week, but the South generally is demonstrating some very regressive politics at the moment. Georgia recently tried passing a bill that would allow faith-based organizations to discriminate against people (and their gay marriages) based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” That one was thankfully vetoed by governor Nathan Deal, but not before Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Dell CEO Michael Dell and billionaire businessman Richard Branson all spoke out in protest of the legislation.
And then there’s Mississippi, which just successfully passed a law giving religious organizations and businesses the right to refuse providing services for same-sex weddings and to not hire someone because of their sexual identity or orientation. Mississippi officials don’t seem to care that companies like Toyota, Nissan, AT&T and more have all spoken out against the new law.
But despite how frustrating and backwards these types of legislation are, it’s heartening to see massive companies and influential private citizens renouncing hate. When Springsteen cancelled his Greensboro concert he wrote a message to fans saying, “Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them. It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”
And everyone using the specific tools at their disposal is the only way we can ensure permanent, positive going forward. It’s just too bad Real NBA hasn’t had the courage to do what its Fake counterpart already did.
UPDATE, April 11 2:30 pm EST: This story originally reported that the website cleveland.com was responsible for initially circulating the false news that the NBA had removed its annual All Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina, but the the hoax actually began on a fabricated news website made to look like ABC News.