(Paul Chesser, Liberty Headlines) While the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Atlantic Coast Conference wield an axe that threatens the State of North Carolina with being cut off from hosting Division I sports championships for another academic year, the corporate sponsors of both organizations are unwilling to distance themselves from the sports leagues’ radical pro-LGBT activism.
But groups who support North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2) law – a measure similar to neighboring states in requiring that individuals use public restrooms corresponding to the gender designated on their birth certificates – say the businesses that finance the NCAA and ACC would be wise to eschew involvement with the economic extortion they are aiming at the state.
The law’s backers say the millions of dollars the sponsors transfer to these athletic associations (structured as non-profit charities) should not be used to promote their liberal social agendas.
“Any company that continues to sponsor the NCAA or the ACC, it is taking a large reputational risk,” said Justin Danhof, director of the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research. “Choosing sides on a relatively evenly-split public policy debate unnecessarily puts a company in a negative light with half of its potential customers. Any corporation that continues to financially support the NCAA’s effort to try and trample the will of the North Carolina people and the state legislature is risking serious consumer and investor backlash.”
Danhof cited the recent example of Target Stores, whose sales numbers and stock price have been hammered since the retailer appeased transsexual activists by opening up store bathrooms to members of the opposite sex.
HB2, a bipartisan measure enacted a year ago, has been the subject of attacks orchestrated by pro-transsexual activists who want people to be able to use restrooms and dressing facilities – even those owned and run by private businesses – according to their “gender identity” or “fluidity,” regardless of their actual biological makeup.
LGBT pressure groups Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC have enlisted the aid of out-of-state big businesses, major sports organizations, and performing artists to threaten and boycott the state until its lawmakers repeal HB2.
But contrary to the narrative of these groups and certain establishment media organizations, the economic terrorism has largely failed, with a report released last week that showed tourism and business expansion in North Carolina soared in 2016.
The NCAA and ACC announced in September that they would remove all their planned sports championships from North Carolina for the 2016-2017 academic year. They are threatening to do so again for 2017-2018 unless HB2 is repealed, but this time the organizations’ officials say they will make their decisions in the Spring and not wait until September again.
“As the state knows, next week our various sports committees will begin making championship site selections for 2018-2022 based upon bids received from across the country,” the NCAA threatened in a Tweet on Thursday. “Those decisions are final and an announcement of all sites will be made on April 18.”
NCAA reaffirms North Carolina championship stance. pic.twitter.com/2XqPodlQUP
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) March 23, 2017
Their warning has caused North Carolina Republican legislators, who backed HB2 last year and have a huge numeric advantage in the state General Assembly, to scramble in fear to find a way to rid themselves of HB2 without losing sports events on one side or grassroots support on the other.
The ACC boasts seven major corporations as financially supportive “champions” or “partners,” including the North Carolina-based Bojangles’ fast food chain and Food Lion supermarkets. The others are Geico, New York Life, Toyota, Chevron (which sponsors under their Havoline motor oil product), and PepsiCo (whose product Gatorade is the named sponsor).
The NCAA identifies 18 large companies as their primary sponsors, including Lowe’s home improvement stores, whose headquarters is in Mooresville, NC. The others are AT&T, Capital One, Coca-Cola, Allstate, Amazon, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Infiniti, LG, Marriott, Nabisco, Northwestern Mutual, Pizza Hut, Hershey (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups), Unilever, and Wendy’s.
Liberty Headlines contacted nearly all the media relations representatives for the corporations that sponsor the NCAA and ACC. All, except Toyota, ducked the inquiries. Among the questions they were asked:
- Does your company agree with the (NCAA’s or ACC’s) measure last year, and continued threat this year, to punish North Carolina’s citizens and businesses because of House Bill 2?
- Does your company endorse House Bill 2, whose provisions prevent the very real threat of giving legal protection to grown men being in the same restrooms and dressing facilities as women and girls in both public buildings and private businesses, while at the same time giving those private businesses the freedom to determine their own restroom policies?
- Does your company believe that private businesses should have the right to determine their own restroom and dressing room policies, without interference from government, as outlined in House Bill 2?
- Does your company believe it is in its best business, customer and shareholder interests to support an organization (the NCAA or ACC) that has so aggressively asserted itself in a political and social issue that so deeply divides a state, where your company reaps millions of dollars in revenues?
- Will your company continue to sponsor and promote the (NCAA or ACC) if it decides to continue its boycott of North Carolina in 2017-2018 because of House Bill 2?
Only Aaron Fowles, a spokesman for Toyota, provided a response to Liberty Headlines:
In general, we believe in letting our company actions and policies speak for themselves. We have been a leader in supporting equality for everyone, reflecting our fundamental value of respect for people. Toyota does not condone discrimination in any form and believes that respect for and inclusive treatment of all people is good for the workplace, the marketplace and society as a whole.
We evaluate all of our sponsorship programs on an ongoing basis to determine if a number of internal metrics are met and will continue to do so with this sponsorship.
Corporations who have waded into controversial policy issues on the side of agitating Leftists have sometimes found themselves in the economic crosshairs of conservative consumers. When Starbucks announced it would hire 10,000 refugees in its stores around the world, after President Trump’s executive order that temporarily prohibited visits from citizens of seven nations that showed a heightened terror threat to the United States, the company suffered a hit to its brand reputation.
More impactful has been a boycott of Target Corporation by the American Family Association, because of the company’s policy following the HB2 controversy, in which it said it would permit customers to use restrooms and fitting rooms according to their gender “identity” rather than their biology. An AFA petition to boycott Target has garnered 1.4 million names and the retail chain’s earnings and stock price have taken a large hit ever since.
AFA President Tim Wildmon was also critical of the companies who stand with the NCAA’s and ACC’s pressure tactics against North Carolina.
“The reality is that HB2 simply prevents men from accessing women’s restrooms and shower facilities on government property,” Wildmon told Liberty Headlines in an email. “It is hypocritical for companies to criticize states like North Carolina for passing common-sense legislation that has no effect on their daily business activities. Meanwhile, many of these companies do business in foreign countries that have horrific human rights records.”
Wildmon’s sentiments were echoed by the head of a North Carolina religious conservative organization.
“The Human Rights Campaign and their cohorts have these businesses firmly in their grasp with pro-LGBTQ public relations executives, and the various corporate policies developed at the behest of LGBTQ pressure groups in recent years,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. “Businesses are usually mortified at the prospect of being labeled ‘bigoted,’ ‘homophobic,’ or ‘discriminatory.’
“And you know it’s bad if they are considerably more afraid of these people than they are the people of the great state of North Carolina.”
Earlier this month some members of the North Carolina House of Representatives introduced a bill that would require political leaders to request an IRS investigation of the NCAA and ACC, over the possibility the organizations have violated their stated core missions that enabled them to obtain tax-exempt nonprofit “charity” status, due to political activity involving HB2. Seventeen legislators have signed on as co-sponsors.
The primary author of the legislation, Republican Rep. Mark Brody, finds the corporations’ support of the NCAA and ACC – while continuing to do business in North Carolina – to be hypocritical.
“They will not leave NC over this issue because our tax and regulatory policies allow them to just plain make more money than anywhere else,” Brody said. “They bite the hand that feeds them, so long as it is not bitten so hard as to prevent the next feeding.”