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The ended its boycott of North Carolina Tuesday after the state curbed a 2016 law that restricted bathroom use for transgender men and women — a move that drew cheers from proponents of a similar Texas bill but did little to assuage fears that the group won’t pull its 2018 Final Four championship from San Antonio.
The NCAA’s board of governors voted to “reluctantly” back off the organization’s North Carolina boycott after lawmakers in the Tar Heel State pushed through a compromise that would partially eliminate some of the provisions in the previous law, the organization announced Tuesday.
“This new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment,” NCAA said in a statement. “If we find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met, we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time.”
The NCAA relocated seven championship games scheduled for 2017 from North Carolina to other states and adopted standards requiring host cities to “provide an environment … free of discrimination” after then-Gov. signed the original bill into law 13 months ago.
San Antonio officials and other opponents of similar legislation in Texas have often cited the NCAA move as a cautionary tale. They worry the organization will move its 2018 Final Four championship games out of San Antonio if the proposal is signed into law, taking with it an estimated $135 million in local spending on restaurants, hotels and attractions.
, San Antonio’s director of Convention & , said city officials continue to fight the bill, which “will create the perception that Texas is not an open and hospitable place to all residents, visitors and those who do business here.”
The NCAA did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday regarding whether it would move the Final Four from San Antonio if the Texas bill is adopted.
So far, the NCAA hasn’t said publicly whether it would pull the San Antonio championship — which is expected to draw about 70,000 ticket-holding attendees — if the Texas bill passes.
The local Final Four organizing committee is working “full steam ahead” to secure thousands of volunteers and staff coordinating committees that will make decisions regarding security, transportation and marketing among other areas surrounding the event within the next 12 months, said , San Antonio Sports associate executive director.
“There have been no signs or indications of the NCAA backing off of what would be our normal timeline,” Carnes said.
NCAA’s North Carolina decision is a “positive” development but not a guarantee the organization won’t pull the Final Four championship from the city, said , president and CEO of Visit San Antonio, the former and .
But, Visit San Antonio is currently booking fewer conventions and meetings because groups are waiting to see whether Texas Senate Bill 6 passes before they finalize plans, Matej said.
Two organizations have told Visit San Antonio they will not consider the Alamo City to host future conventions because of the bill, according to the organization. Nine other organizations are waiting to see whether the bill will pass before deciding whether to return to San Antonio, she said.
San Antonio would lose an estimated $40 million in convention and tourism spending if all 11 organizations decide to move their events.
In total, tourism officials in the state’s four largest cities — San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Houston — say they stand to within the next few years just on the conventions and events that have already threatened to take their business elsewhere if Senate Bill 6 passes.
“Am I completely relieved and think we don’t still have to be communicating to our lawmakers?” Matej said. “No, I think we need to continue to explain and really impress upon our lawmakers it could have a negative economic impact for our community and around the state.”
Several businesses and groups scaled back operations in North Carolina and canceled major events after lawmakers there enacted that state’s original bathroom bill last year. Some estimates peg the cost to North Carolina at $500 million so far and at least 1,400 in lost jobs. An Associated Press study estimated that the law would cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over 12 years.
The pulled its All-Star Game from Charlotte in July, and the Atlantic Coast Conference withdrew its college football championship and woman’s college basketball tournament from the state.
The Atlantic Coast Conference said Friday it would reconsider North Carolina for future championship events after Gov. signed the compromise bill last week.
North Carolina’s new bill eliminated a requirement that transgender people use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings. The new law says only state legislators — not local governments or school officials — can make rules for public restrooms.
The original bill invalidated any local ordinances protecting gay or transgender people from discrimination in the workplace or in public accommodations. The compromise prohibits local governments from enacting any new such protections until December 2020.
Backers of the Texas bill — which would prevent transgender Texans from using the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity in government buildings and override local nondiscrimination ordinances with transgender protections — said the NCAA’s decision indicated support for the proposal in Texas.
“We have always said that the Texas Privacy Act was not in conflict with the anti-discrimination goals of the NCAA and the statement they released this morning makes that abundantly clear,” Lt. Gov. said in a statement. “The NCAA statement details the principles embodied in the Texas Privacy Act which are mirrored in North Carolina’s new law.”
The bill’s author — State Sen. , R-Brenham — said in a separate statement, “I applaud the state of North Carolina for adopting a policy that is similar to SB 6, the Texas Privacy Act, and I also applaud the NCAA for now agreeing that there is nothing discriminatory about the Texas Privacy Act or our honest efforts to address the serious issue of privacy and safety in our public facilities and school showers, locker rooms, and restrooms.”
The NCAA hasn’t issued any public comments on the Texas proposal.
Senate Bill 6 hasn’t made much progress in the Texas House of Representatives since passing the Texas Senate by a 21-10 vote last month. The bill’s not currently scheduled for a House committee vote. Last week, House Speaker prevented three amendments relating to the issue from being attached to a bill renewing the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates oil and gas, and coming to the full House floor for a vote.
“I doubt anyone would recommend that we jump through the same hoops that North Carolina is now trying to move past,” Straus, a San Antonio Republican, said in a statement Tuesday about the NCAA’s decision.
contributed to this report.