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10 March 2016: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish played the Duke University Blue Devils at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC in the Atlantic Coast Conference Men's Basketball Tournament quarterfinal and a 2015-16 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball game. Notre Dame won the game 84-79 in overtime. (Photograph by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire)

HB2 threat to North Carolina sports now real

(Photograph by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire)

North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 legislation rose to another level once politics intersected with Duke’s basketball schedule.

The University of Albany’s Nov. 12 game at Cameron Indoor Stadium has been canceled.

However, the level of controversy surrounding HB2 – North Carolina’s so-called bathroom law — still has a long way to go to reach the code red showdown between the state of Arizona and the NFL.

In the early 1990s, the NFL threatened and carried through with its promise to take away Super Bowl XXVII.

Arizona failed to recognize Martin Luther King Day and the NFL moved the January 1993 game to Pasadena, Calif. Arizona backed down, established MLK Day and the NFL awarded Phoenix Super Bowl XXX played in January 1996.

It’s not that simple with North Carolina and HB2, although the threat of losing sports events is now real. It has impacted Duke’s five-time national champions coached by Basketball Hall-of-Famer Mike Krzyzewski.

Albany, as a state university, is prohibited from traveling due to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing an executive order banning non-essential travel to North Carolina. Cuomo opposes to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law that also prevents suing for discrimination or wrongful termination.

Albany’s field hockey team also was forced to cancel games at Duke and North Carolina, but those non-revenue sports — like it or not — are a footnote to men’s college basketball.

Canceling field hockey games won’t raise attention.

Syracuse is an ACC member from upstate New York that routinely plays football, basketball and other sports in North Carolina, but Syracuse is a private university. Syracuse teams will come and go without raising the controversy.

Nevertheless, the Tar Heel state has officially sunk to the depths of Mississippi, a state long banned from hosting NCAA events for flying the Confederate flag on state grounds. North Carolina also faces new competition with South Carolina for NCAA events now that its neighbor has taken down its Confederate flag and has been lifted from the banned list.

Sometimes a national sports story is what it takes to catch the attention of voters and politicians, although a Duke-Albany game is but a blip compared to a Super Bowl. Duke also is a private school with a largely out-of-state student body. Its fan base doesn’t equal the statewide passion of North Carolina and N.C. State among citizens and politicians.

But what happens when Duke, North Carolina or N.C. State are unable to take advantage of playing in an NCAA Regional within state borders? They’ve done so in 11 of the past 15 years. The NCAA is on record that HB2 may prevent it from awarding future NCAA events in the state.

North Carolina’s economy has been losing money from canceled conventions, businesses scrapping expansion plans and many artists and bands such as Bruce Springsteen canceling shows.

But so far lost money hasn’t raised citizen ire remotely approaching Arizona forfeiting its Super Bowl.

The most direct North Carolina example may be HB2 costing Charlotte the 2017 NBA All-Star game. Commissioner Adam Silver said at league meetings Tuesday in Las Vegas that the Board of Governors delayed a vote for now, but it will need to make a decision soon. Silver has been on record that HB2 “is inconsistent with the core values of our league.”

Charlotte has estimated the NBA All-Star Game is worth $100 million to the area’s economy.

But will money matter?

It may ultimately take North Carolina’s passion for NCAA basketball to make a difference, and that’s a couple years into the future.

HB2 threat to North Carolina sports now real

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