On Friday, the National Basketball Association (NBA) made an important announcement. The 66th annual All-Star game — which had originally been scheduled to take place in Charlotte, NC — will instead be moved to New Orleans. According to the league, the decision stems from North Carolina state's decision to pass HB2, a new bathroom bill that would require individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth.
In a statement, the NBA said, "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 league went on to say that Charlotte could potentially host the All-Star Game in 2019, "provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter." At first glance, it's simply a smart business move; plenty of businesses have withdrawn from North Carolina since the bill has passed. Upon closer inspection, though, it seems the NBA has made a historic move, one that offers support to the LGBT community in a way it never has before.
Homophobia is still a rampant problem in the athletic world at large, and basketball is no exception. Even in 2015, Time divulged the findings of a new study that exposed still-present homophobia in sports. The study reportedly "found few positive signs in any country that [lesbian, gay, and bisexual people] are welcome and safe playing team sports." There's a shocking dearth of out gay athletes in the sports world. The Time study also gave a nod to Jason Collins, who is the first openly gay active athlete in the four major US sports. Collins, however, didn't publicly come out until 2013. At this point, it's clear the sports world is moving a bit slower than other parts of society. And that's why NBA's move matters so much.
How encouraging is it that the NBA, a league with such power and exposure, has made a decision with the LGBT community in mind? When such a prolific part of the sports world does something this forward-thinking, it can cause real change. The result is three-fold: first, the NBA sets an example for its basketball teams and players, and perhaps the sports world at large. What's more, it provides a small, hitherto absent space for closeted players to feel just a little safer. And, of course, the entire LGBT community witnesses an act of solidarity that hasn't quite been enacted at such a large scale before. With homophobia occurring as such a large, seemingly unfixable problem, the NBA has taken the first step toward dismantling it.