In every crisis, there is an opportunity.
And the City of Jacksonville seeks to exploit the crisis the state of North Carolina faces, after its legislature passed anti-LGBT legislation earlier this year.
As First Coast News reports, the NCAA is prepared to move seven championship events — including NCAA basketball tournament action, as well as soccer, lacrosse, and golf tourneys — out of the Tarheel State.
“Current North Carolina state laws make it challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver on that commitment if NCAA events remained in the state,” the NCAA asserted, adding the state law was drafted to supersede local protections for the LGBT community … a condition which keeps teams from a number of states from traveling to North Carolina.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, is ready to pounce.
“We are in constant contact with the NCAA and it is fully aware of our desire to host any and all of its championships. We will continue to monitor this situation and are fully prepared to discuss the possibility of relocating these championships to Jacksonville,” Jacksonville Sports Council President Rick Catlett told FCN Tuesday.
Jacksonville may have “desire” to host these games that North Carolina is losing.
However, as the largest city in the country without protections on the books for the LGBT community, the question is raised: if protecting the rights of LGBT athletes and fans is paramount to the NCAA decision, why would tournament action be moved to a place that can’t codify such protections, preferring instead vacuous assurances that the people of Jacksonville “don’t discriminate, so legislation isn’t necessary?”
Councilman Tommy Hazouri, who is set to bring back another attempt to expand Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance to the LGBT community, has qualms.
“We haven’t taken as strong a position as North Carolina [against LGBT rights],” said Hazouri Wednesday, “but I worry about the consequences.”
“Our chances are more enhanced by being an all-inclusive city,” said Hazouri, saying an “open-door policy” would give Jacksonville a leg up.
“The handwriting is on the wall,” Hazouri continued.
“If we don’t act sooner than later, we may find ourselves in the same boat as North Carolina, especially since so many other cities have an all-inclusive policy,” Hazouri said, relative to LGBT rights.
Catlett did not respond to a Wednesday morning request for comment; however, in May he told the Florida Times-Union his group is taking a “wait-and-see attitude” regarding the need to codify protections for the LGBT community in light of the NCAA’s evolution on these matters.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry offered the following comment on Wednesday afternoon.
“Anyone comparing Jacksonville to North Carolina is fundamentally wrong. North Carolina actively pursued restriction of certain rights. Here in Jacksonville, under my leadership, we convened community conversations to consider the rights of people under the law. I moved to codify the City of Jacksonville’s policies and procedures to ensure that they are consistent with civil rights protections under federal and state law. I believe now, as I stated then, we have taken an appropriate action. There is no question in my mind we are an open and inclusive city. To that end, we will continue to pursue NCAA events and expect to have success.”
That said, given that the NCAA is increasingly concerned about protecting the rights of all of its student-athletes and fans, and not just those who meet the approval of anti-HRO stalwarts like Garry Wiggins of the Evangel Temple and Bishop-Designate Ken Adkins of the Glynn County Jail, one suspects the NCAA, should it decide to move these events to Florida, may want to consider a municipality more in line with national consensus on LGBT rights than Jacksonville, for which the best that can be said right now is “well, at least it isn’t North Carolina.”