HB2 clock running out

By the editorial board

With the UNC Tar Heels headed to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, the sports mania -- particularly basketball mania -- of our part of the world is on full display.

With last-second shots and late comebacks abounding, the notion of time about to expire is emblazoned on our collective brain. And politicians of every stripe worry constantly -- as they should -- about improving the economic position of our state.

All of which is why a couple of developments this week underscore for the umpteenth time why House Bill 2, the “bathroom bill,” is doing significant damage to our sports identity and to our economy. Still, the legislative leadership seems determined to stand its ground on the controversial bill that bans cities, towns and counties from passing nondiscrimination ordinances and requires people to use bathrooms in public buildings that conform to the gender on their birth certificate.

Companies have canceled plans for job-creating relocations or expansions in the state, major conferences have pulled out of venues and the NCAA and ACC have withdrawn post-season events.

Critics have pointed to the economic damage done to the state, but the bill’s supporters have minimized that impact and even suggested it’s barely noticeable in our overall economy. But this week, the Associated Press published the results of a lengthy analysis, through interviews and public records examination, of the full impact.

The law “will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years” the AP concluded in what it called “the largest reckoning yet of how much the law ... could cost the state.”

The tally, the AP wrote, is likely to underestimate the scale of damage. The writers excluded anecdotal reports “that lacked hard numbers” and didn’t try to forecast “the loss of future conventions.”

Lost sports events were a big part of the impact -- and it has become increasingly clear in recent days that the clock is running, perhaps irreversibly, on our chances of landing many major events for years to come.

A sports event recruiter on Tuesday added even more weight to an NCAA warning last week that the organization would very soon be making decisions on upcoming tournaments that would lock North Carolina out through perhaps 2022.

“I have confirmed with a contact close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” said Scott Dupree, head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

The ball, so to speak, is in the legislature’s court with only seconds to spare. Will they score?