Solidarity for basketball players and LGBTQ people in NC as NBA relocates All-Star Game

BLM queer and trans people of color contingent, Sept. 26, 2015.

Three months after the passage of HB2, an anti-trans, anti-worker and racist bill in North Carolina, the National Basketball Association announced it was moving its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, N.C. According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, the city is expected to lose $100 million in revenue generated by that game.

North Carolina’s reactionary governor, Pat McCrory, called the NBA’s decision, “P.C.B.S.” (politically correct bull sh-t). McCrory has been under fire following his decision to sign the bill into law. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the state and threatened to withhold $80 million in public education funding if the law is not repealed.

The NBA’s decision to move the All-Star Game came after companies like American Airlines and PayPal announced opposition to the law. Addison Evans, a Black trans person from Charlotte, has mixed feelings about the decision. They (Evans’ preferred gender neutral pronoun) expressed concerns about the economic impact: “Many Time Warner Cable [Arena] employees who were planning for overtime no longer have that opportunity.” Evans added: “But this also has implications for McCrory, who likely will not be re-elected.”

Evans’ concerns reflect those of many working-class and oppressed people caught in the crossfire of political games that corporations and politicians play every day. Still, the NBA’s decision remains monumental, especially given the current political climate surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Women’s National Basketball Association recently fined three teams, the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, and their players for wearing black T-shirts expressing solidarity with recent victims of police terror: Philando Castile of Minneapolis and Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, La. The WNBA eventually rescinded the fines because of a massive outcry, proving these basketball players had the support of thousands across the U.S. who also believe Black Lives Matter.

We live in a unique time, full of contradictions. What exactly does it mean for workers, and for trans people in particular, that the NBA, a multibillion- dollar league, decided to move its All-Star Game to boycott HB2, yet punished its players for standing against police brutality? What does it mean that, according to activist Richard Lapchick, almost 75 percent of NBA players are Black, 23 percent are white and about 2 percent are Latino, while the majority of the owners of the NBA are white?

It means that, while the NBA’s decision to relocate the All-Star Game is noteworthy, and surely sets a standard and expectation for other professional sports leagues, the power to make change lies in our building solidarity across issues and identities as workers and oppressed people.

We saw this clearly on the collegiate level late last year when University of Missouri football players announced their intention to boycott an upcoming game. Their refusal to play, their withholding their labor, came in support of students organizing for Black Lives Matter on their campus. The powerful solidarity intensified the struggle at Mizzou and helped organizers win the resignation of Tim Wolfe, the university-system president under fire for sending racist emails.

Mizzou football players knew their power in the movement and acted despite possible adverse consequences for them. The WNBA women who stood up for Black Lives Matter made a bold decision that could impact their careers in worse ways than just a fine. But it is precisely this kind of bravery that is needed to build a united front against racism, homophobia and transphobia. It is this kind of bravery that reminds us that organized people’s power is what changes conditions.

Profiteers, politicians, corporations and banks do not make decisions because they want to treat the working class and oppressed better. They make calculated decisions to increase revenue, to seek new opportunities for profit. But It is the people embedded within and surrounding these institutions — whether North Carolina’s General Assembly or the NBA — who can move the compass needle of today to point in the direction of justice.

The NBA’s decision to relocate the All-Star Game should be a mandate to other professional sports leagues to boycott North Carolina. Even more, that decision should remind all workers and oppressed people that we must defend each other, fight together and be in solidarity with one another. The struggle against HB2 in North Carolina continues as young people, LGBTQ youth and people of color unite to resist any divide-and-conquer strategies.

Our strength is found in our solidarity and the recognition that our common enemy is the capitalist ruling class, whose constant contradictions bring both frustration and opportunities to attack this capitalist system at its root.

End the attacks on queer and trans people!

Defend the Black Lives Matter movement!