NEW YORK (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday a North Carolina law that limits anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people remains “problematic” for the league, but he said there is no decision on moving next year’s All-Star Game out of Charlotte.
Owners discussed the law during their two-day meetings and Silver said the league wants to be involved in helping protect those the law discriminates against. He believes that is better done with dialogue than by making threats.
“Let me be clear. The current state of the law is problematic for the NBA in North Carolina,” Silver said. “I think for the league office and our owners, I think the discussion was how can we be most constructive in being part of a process that results in the kind of change that we think is necessary.”
The North Carolina law directs transgender people to use public toilets corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificate. The law also excludes LGBT people from state anti-discrimination protections, blocks local governments from expanding LGBT protections, and bars all types of workplace discrimination lawsuits from state courts.
The law was adopted last month, and opposition has been loud and extensive. States and major cities have banned public employees from optional travel to North Carolina, PayPal reversed plans to open a 400-employee operation center in Charlotte, and more than 160 corporate CEOs signed a letter urging the law’s repeal. Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and other entertainers have canceled plans to play in North Carolina.
The NBA previously said it was unsure it could successfully stage next February’s festivities in Charlotte as planned, but Silver said he doesn’t think a warning that it could pull out would be the proper message, particularly because the league would still have a team playing there.
“The league believes that these groups need to be protected, but again, I think the right way to work to the proper resolution here is for the league to remain engaged in the conversation, rather than setting ultimatums or announcing we’re not going to play our All-Star Game in Charlotte,” Silver said.
But Silver, who attended Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, is troubled by the law, adding he doesn’t even understand the genesis for it. His office has received letters from senators urging the league to take action by moving the game, but Silver said it’s not that simple.
The Charlotte Hornets, owned by Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, are in the playoffs and will be playing home games next weekend.
“Just to reiterate, as I said earlier, this notion that sort of we set a deadline, and then somehow we’re in the position to dictate to the community of North Carolina that, ‘Change this or else,’ and then we were to say, ‘Fine, we’ll move on,'” Silver said. “We have a team that plays in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I’m not even sure what statement we’d then be making about that team, and I think what’s next, and then people say, ‘Should your team be playing in North Carolina?'”
Besides Jordan, Silver noted that current NBA stars Stephen Curry and Chris Paul are from North Carolina.
“I’ve already explained how I feel about discrimination period. I think that’s not tolerable nowhere,” Curry said as Golden State practiced for its playoff opener in Oakland, California. “It sucks that it’s in my home state where a lot of great people live. The All-Star Game hopefully being in Charlotte will be a huge thing for the city. I know the NBA will make the right decision when it comes time.”
Silver hopes that can be avoided by lawmakers changing the law before the NBA was forced to weigh action. He said they meet later this month, and his wish is that “they will see clear to a change in the law.”
“I’m hopeful they will,” Silver added. “And as I said, if the NBA and my colleagues and our owners can be helpful to that process, we stand ready. And I do think that’s an appropriate role for us to take.”
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in Oakland, California, contributed to this report.