This past week The University of Vermont canceled a women’s basketball game at North Carolina, scheduled for Dec. 28, due to concern over the state’s HB2 law, known as the “Bathroom Bill,” and it follows a steady stream of news, including the NBA’s decision to pull the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte and The University of Albany’s decision to cancel a men’s basketball game at Duke. The law, has also led to non-sports cancellation, including a Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam concerts. The state of North Carolina is scheduled to host the 2016 ACC Football championship game in December and NCAA Tournament games in 2017. Currently New York and Minnesota are among the states that have mandates against “non-essential” travel to North Carolina.
While these cancellations are noble and noteworthy in a time where athletes and entertainers can create their own voice and be involved in key causes, wouldn’t it be better of a team, or an athlete or an entertainer NOT cancel an event, which by the way causes collateral damage for fans and businesses who cannot leave the state but are bound to an archaic law, and do something in and around a game or an activity that raises both funds and awareness.
What if a team wore a special uniform during a game in state and donated that money to an LGBT charity through an auction, or donated proceeds of a concert or a game or series of games to the cause? What if a visiting team, or a home team, had LGBT families and supporters attend a game and stand in unison or wear the same shirts when they played in the state? That would go much further than cancellations and would also create both a rallying cry and am awareness destination for those looking to support. Cancellations create some noise, but then the dates are filled and people move on. Activation would lead to much more conversation, and in many ways, positive attempt at action. There may also be brands that would rally behind an already-created event who could also be on board for activism.
Are there downsides and distractions for such events? Sure and the politics run deep. There are also behind the scenes discussions going on for how teams and leagues will handle one off situations as the fall approaches. We are in a time where so many are focused on athlete voice and cause marketing, and the North Carolina situation screams for opportunity actively, not passively, for those who are looking to get involved. While there is no downside for those who have pulled their games and they should be applauded, it would be better to be active, play the game or the concert and make the noise there, rather than cancelling.
Just a thought.