“It means different things to different people, but a lot of people see it as a racial insult to see that flag flown, so (the NCAA) moved out of there,” UNC history professor Matthew Andrews said.
NCAA events returned in 2015 after the flag was taken down — but protesters said they wanted the NCAA to know they were still there.
NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships Dan Gavitt condemned the flag in a statement Sunday.
“We are committed to assuring that our events are safe and accessible to all,” Gavitt said. “No symbols that compromise that commitment will be permitted to be displayed on venue property that the tournament controls.”
Andrews said the Greenville games show how sports and politics align.
“People have been saying for 100 years that sports and politics can’t mix — that sports are a respite from politics, they’re an escape from politics and this is why we like them,” he said. “But anyone who says that just is not paying attention.”
HB2 caused the NCAA to relocate the games, as well as six other championship events, from North Carolina for the 2016-17 academic year.
The NCAA said the bill’s provisions eliminating LGBTQ civil rights protections contradicted its mission of inclusivity for its student-athletes.
“We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans and everyone taking part in our championships,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a September statement.
UNC rallied late to win against Arkansas in the second round in Greenville.
Meanwhile, the Duke men’s basketball team suffered an upset loss to South Carolina — playing in front of a pro-South Carolina crowd.
UNC head coach Roy Williams said Duke “paid the price” of playing farther from home and criticized HB2 in a Tuesday press conference.
“The biggest thing is, guys, it’s just not right,” he said. “I mean, I’ll stand up and say that on any building anywhere as long as you promise not to push.”
According to the Greensboro Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the region missed out on about $14.5 million in revenue when the event left.
HB2’s economic impact is undeniable, Andrews said.
“That obviously hurts hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies — that money all goes elsewhere,” Andrews said. “It’s having a profound economic effect.”
Whether the NCAA pulling events from the state will pressure legislators to change the law is unclear, he said.
“It seems to me that the legislature has dug in its heels and refused to really consider repealing this,” he said. “One could argue that it hasn’t changed all that much.”