The National Basketball Association has done what it threatened to do when North Carolina announced it was going to be Bathroom Monitor To The Nation – take the All-Star Game out of Charlotte.
Commissioner Adam Silver has dropped the hammer on the February gala and is leaning toward moving it, ironically enough, to New Orleans, the city that took the original Charlotte Hornets and Pelicanized them.
Thus seemingly ends a bizarre series of events that began when North Carolina decided to introduce a new (and if you’ll permit a personal aside, monumentally stupid) law about who could use what public bathroom and under what circumstances. This level of over-the-transom privacy violation was more than the NBA was willing to endure, so it threatened, then vowed, and now has finally taken the game away, and if the rumors are correct, moving it to one of the few places in America that can handle a large influx of people at the drop of a beignet.
To say this was the right thing to do misses the point, really. It was, but the real information here comes in the decision by the league to vote with its money rather than a wagging finger or a distant clucking sound. While other leagues have at best an either checkered, unchallenged or disinterested view of their place in society, the NBA decided in this case that discrimination is discrimination no matter who the victim might be, and took its tourists and their well-proportioned wallets to higher ground.
That is, higher ground morally rather than topographically. New Orleans is one of the rare places where you can, if positioned right, look up at the water level, but it is always available to host a party.
There are other possibilities than New Orleans, including Sacramento, which is opening a new building for the same old show, but New Orleans would be the ideal spot for reasons of logistics and finger-in-the-eye hijinks.
Silver’s impish sense of humor must be considered here, assuming of course that he was the driving force to (a) remove the game from Charlotte and (b) send it to the town that absconded with the original Hornets. Frankly, it should end up in Louisiana just for that reason, although any town would have done as well. Maybe even Las Vegas or, even more hilariously, Seattle, just to make Clay Bennett’s summer a total misery farm.
Now it may be that North Carolina doesn’t much care about the All-Star Game enough to wonder about who gets it, but merchants and restaurateurs and hoteliers and the chamber of commerce do, and that’s how social change is typically initiated in this country – with money. It’s the crowbar the NBA used to oust Donald Sterling three years ago, too, and it worked like a charm.
And this is not to condemn Charlotte as some social backwater, either, or owner Michael Jordan as a retrograde social engineer. This law was done to the city and the franchise by the voters outside the city to overturn an ordinance that allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice without state interference, on the fairly safe ground that, well, it’s a bathroom.
But collateral damage is as collateral damage does, and Charlotte will take its hit, and even be looped out of future make-good dates as long as the law remains in force. And if other leagues choose to punish the state’s other cities for other events for the same reason, then that’s collateral damage, too.
So it goes. The NBA All-Star Game is small spuds indeed given the social roil around it, and the losers are the citizens of a town that is mesmerized by a statue of the team’s football owner and two feral jungle animals, but it’s a win for economic shoe-squeezing as a method of protest. You take your bouts of sanity where you can get them, and if we have lived good lives, you get a cool below-radar joke to go with it.