NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – The National Basketball Association's decision to pull its 2017 All-Star Game out of North Carolina over a so-called transgender bathroom law has led to calls of hypocrisy from social conservatives, who are questioning why the NBA remains committed to playing two 2016-17 preseason games in China – a country with a history of human rights abuses.
The NBA released a statement July 21, saying that while it had worked to "foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change" in North Carolina, the fact that the law remained in place was too significant to overlook. The league had hoped the legislature would tweak the law, H.B. 2, if not overturn it.
"We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league," the NBA said. "These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view. ... 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 North Carolina law prevents biological men from using women's restrooms, and vice versa, in government buildings. It also prohibits cities and towns from forcing businesses to open up their restrooms to people of the opposite sex.
The NBA's controversial move put it in an awkward position, for at least two reasons. First, it still has a team – the Charlotte Hornets – that is based in North Carolina. Second, it is trying to expand its reach into markets, such as China, that are well-known abusers of human rights. It has scheduled two preseason NBA games in China for the 2016-2017 season – the very same season it has chosen not to hold its All-Star game in Charlotte.
According to Outright International, which tracks worldwide laws on LGBT issues, transgendered people in China "face serious levels of police harassment in China" and LGBT people in general "suffer from police harassment and arbitrary detention." Furthermore, gay couples have no legal recognition, and "discrimination against LGBT people continues to be written into many different areas of law in China."
But it's not simply LGBT issues. Human Rights Watch reported that China "systematically curbs fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, association, assembly, and religion." Forced abortions also are common.
Glenn T. Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family and an expert on LGBT issues, said the NBA should be called out on its ties to China.
"If one is going to make a big morality splash, consistency is no small thing," Stanton told the Christian Examiner. "North Carolina law says men should not be able to use women's restrooms, regardless. Hardly radical, but the NBA the pulls their All-Star Game. They cozy up to China, however, and host games there with no qualms even as the gay community rates China as deeply oppressive in nearly every category."
The NBA, though, is not unique in its position, Stanton noted, as corporate America has widely criticized North Carolina while pushing to do business around the world with repressive regimes.
"Apple and other tech companies feign outrage at states like North Carolina and Indiana, but happily do business in the Middle East where gay and lesbian people are murdered with immunity," Stanton said. "Such selective outrage simply reveals a liberal fashionableness."
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Republican from North Carolina, made a similar point.
"Last week, I met with constituents from China who outlined the Chinese government practice of forcefully harvesting vital organs as part of their oppression of religious minorities," Pittenger wrote in the July 21 letter. "Meanwhile, the NBA will start selling tickets for preseason games in China. ... Is the NBA implying China's abhorrent violation of basic human rights is acceptable, but North Carolina saying men shouldn't use the girls' locker room is a bridge too far? What is the NBA's true priority? The unmistakable hypocrisy is clear to me. You be your own judge."