The National Basketball Association will move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina due to the state’s controversial "bathroom bill" (also called HB2). The NBA's decision follows the trend of corporate America taking a stand on social issues and will influence fans’ mindset, say PR pros.
On Thursday, the NBA published its full statement regarding the 2017 NBA All-Star Game on Twitter.
The NBA issued the following statement today regarding the 2017 NBA All-Star Game pic.twitter.com/2yo1YDA2Un— NBA (@NBA) July 21, 2016
"While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2," the statement says.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory also released a statement on the NBA's decision on Thursday, defending the law. In his statement, he decries "the sports and entertainment elite" and "the liberal media" for rallying against the law. He also adds a warning: "American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process."
The NBA is not the first brand to take a stand against HB2. Shortly after the bill was signed into law, more than 100 CEOs signed a letter to McCrory taking a public stance against the law.
"It’s one of the most significant acts of corporate allyship we’ve ever seen," said Brian Ellner, GM of corporate and public affairs at Edelman. "The All-Star Games bring significant revenue to states and they’re making a declaration that they do not want to do business there."
As a brand, the NBA hasn’t been shy to take stances on other issues like gun violence, Ellner said. The NBA Cares program addresses issues like the environment and provides mentoring for boys and young men of color.
The statement noted the potential to return the All-Star Game to Charlotte in 2019.
"The NBA leaving the door open for returning to Charlotte in 2019 is a very good incentive and a good way of saying, ‘We want to continue to have our business in North Carolina when, and if, you return rights to the LGBT community.’"
Ellner said, "[The NBA] hopes that the legislature and governor will do what other states have done and withdraw this discriminatory law. It's worked elsewhere."
The trend of corporate America taking a stand on social issues has only been increasing. Consumers now expect brands to be good citizens, said Stephen Macias, head of MWWPR’s LGBT and multicultural practice.
"I do think that making a stand makes a difference in their consumer’s mindset, especially millennials," Macias said. "They want diversity and inclusion from the brands they purchase from. The decision the NBA made, and other brands make, is about the future not the past."