Bipartisan group of U.S. Senators urge NBA to move '17 All-Star Game

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators are urging the National Basketball Association to move the 2017 NBA All-Star Game away from Charlotte, North Carolina, because of a state law that limits protection for gay, lesbian and transgender people.

Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Patty Murray of Washington state, along with Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, wrote to NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday.

The senators said they "hold no ill will toward the people of Charlotte" but cannot "stand idly by as North Carolina moves to legalize and institutionalize discrimination."

The senators said the NBA made history when Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete in a major U.S. sports league two years ago.

Last week, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley also called on the NBA to move the 2017 All-Star Game to a different location.

"As a black person, I'm against any form of discrimination -- against whites, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, however you want to phrase it," Barkley told CNN. "It's my job, with the position of power that I'm in and being able to be on television, I'm supposed to stand up for the people who can't stand up for themselves. So, I think the NBA should move the All-Star Game from Charlotte."

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy also called on the NBA to move the game, calling it a civil rights issue this week.

Earlier this month, the Atlanta City Council asked the NBA to move the 2017 All-Star Game to Atlanta because of the law. The NBA responded by saying it was hopeful a resolution could be reached.

The NBA's owners are expected to be updated on the situation surrounding the 2017 All-Star Game at this week's board of governors meetings, to be held on Thursday and Friday in New York.

On Tuesday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory filed an executive order that extends further protections to state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but left intact the bulk of the law, known as House Bill 2 (HB2).

McCrory also said he will ask lawmakers to file legislation later this month allowing people to sue in state court over discrimination. That right had been wiped out by the law.

But the statement said that his order will maintain gender-specific restroom and locker-room access in government buildings and schools. He once again condemned a Charlotte ordinance passed earlier this year that allowed transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity, calling it "a solution in search of a problem."

His announcement came as fallout widens over the law he signed last month that would limit protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people.

The NFL said earlier this month it would not move its May 23-25 meetings from Charlotte despite the law.

The NCAA, which is scheduled to hold men's basketball tournament games in Greensboro in 2017 and Charlotte in 2018, issued a statement last month saying it's monitoring the situation and takes diversity into account when it chooses its event sites.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.