NBA commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged Thursday that the All-Star Game could be moved if a controversial North Carolina law limiting anti-discrimination protection for gays, lesbians and transgender people stands, but he also said that the league “has a much bigger issue” than one game.
Silver answered criticism that the NBA should have already pulled the All-Star Game out of North Carolina, saying that it would be problematic for the league to make that announcement and then have the Charlotte Hornets host a playoff game days later.
“I’m really not seeing the distinction, which is why this is a much bigger issue,” he said on ESPN’s Mike & Mike on Thursday. “I’m only saying that whatever we do, we have to keep an eye on the fact that we have one of our 30 franchises operating in that state. We have a much bigger issue in North Carolina than the All-Star Game: It’s the ongoing operation of our team.
“That’s why what’s most important to this league that there be a change in law. It would be easy to make a statement but I can’t cut-and-run here? I’m leaving my team there.”
As for the All-Star Game, Silver hasn’t issued an ultimatum, but he has applied direct pressure.
“We’ve been working very closely with the business community down there and the governor and the legislature to make it clear that it would be problematic for us to move forward with our All-Star Game if there is not a change in the law,” Silver said.
The All-Star Game is scheduled for Feb. 17 at Time Warner Cable Arena and could inject $100 million into Charlotte’s economy, according to the Charlotte Observer.
“I believe they’re going to do the right thing,” Silver said. “And I think they’ve heard loud and clearly from the NBA, they know what’s at stake in terms of the All-Star Game … but I think at least at the moment, constructive engagement on our part is the best way to go as opposed to putting a gun to their head and saying ‘Do this, or else.'”
Last week, Silver said that the law was problematic but stopped short of saying that he would pull the All-Star Game.
Last month, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that prevents local municipalities from passing anti-discrimination protection for the LGBT community. It also requires transgender individuals to use the public restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.
Information from ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk and The Associated Press was used in this report.