Could Transgender Bills Cost New Orleans Host Status for 2022 Final Four?
In 2017, the city of New Orleans and the state benefited financially after the NBA moved the All-Star Game and its festivities to the Crescent City when North Carolina passed an anti-transgender bathroom bill in 2016, taking the big event from the city of Charlotte. That bill was later repealed.
Now, New Orleans could be on the opposite side of that as the NCAA put out a statement on Monday - ahead of the start of the 2021 Legislative Session - in support of transgender athletes. The NCAA Board of Governors statement said they will only host events in places that are "safe, healthy and free of discrimination" and indicated that they “will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”
Nola is currently scheduled to host the 2022 NCAA Final Four at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on April 2 and 4 of that year.
So, why is there a concern that New Orleans could lose its host status for the Final Four?
Well, Houma Representative Beryl Amadee has filed a bill that would not allow transgender athletes to participate in girl's or women's sports at public schools, according to Louisiana Radio Network. And, with the Republican makeup of the state Legislature, this bill has a good chance of passing. House Bill 542 is the latest proposed law dealing with this issue as GOP legislators across the country have introduced similar versions of it.
At a time when tourism is slowly trying to rebound from restrictions put on it during the COVID pandemic, losing out on an event that just generated millions of dollars for the city of Indianapolis would be a huge blow.
“Legislating away the rights and freedoms of trans people is harmful not just to the trans community, but to the entire state,” said Dylan Waguespack, President of Louisiana Trans Advocates, in a press release. “Our reputation is on the line, and the four anti-trans bills pending hearing at the Louisiana State Legislature could deal a massive blow to the tourism and convention business. When our economy suffers, it’s everyday families whose wallets get hit.”
According to WAFB, Rep. Amadee and Senator Beth Mizell are leading the way in each chamber with the legislation, calling for the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” Rep. Amadee filed similar legislation last session - called the "Save the Women's Sports Act - before COVID turned the session upside down.
“Some have suggested that somehow this harms the move toward equality of the sexes,” Amedee said in an interview covered by Houma Today. “It doesn’t. It actually furthers and promotes the equality of the sexes by providing opportunities for females to truly participate as athletes on a level playing field.”
So, a week after Governor John Bel Edwards celebrated the return of the Final Four to New Orleans for the event in 2022 at a Tip-Off Event on Poydras Street, the event could be in jeopardy of not being played in a city that has hosted it five times already.