The NCAA Should Be Free to Boycott N.C. Taxpayers Should Be Free to Stop Subsidizing Them.

Why are the rest of us paying for this dispute?


NCAA basketball
Roberto E. Rosales/ZUMA Press/Newscom

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the incredibly wealthy organization that rules over college sports, just announced that they are pulling seven championship events out of the state of North Carolina and will be moving them elsewhere.

The NCAA objects to the passage of HB2, the legislation passed earlier in the year that blocks the passage of municipal antidiscrimination laws beyond what the state already covers and—this is what's getting all the attention—requires that people use the restrooms and facilities of their birth sex in schools and government buildings.

The NCAA notes the factors that contributed to this move that put North Carolina in a different class than other states that don't necessarily have anti-discrimination protections for gay or transgender people:

  • North Carolina laws invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.
  • North Carolina has the only statewide law that makes it unlawful to use a restroom different from the gender on one's birth certificate, regardless of gender identity.
  • North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community.
  • Five states plus numerous cities prohibit travel to North Carolina for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include student-athletes and campus athletics staff. These states are New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut.

I would point out that the second item here isn't quite accurate. It only applies to government buildings and schools, and private businesses can accommodate transgender people however they choose. Of course, we are talking about an organization whose events frequently happen in government-owned or run facilities.

As for the last item, when the NCAA points out the relationship between college sports and government employees and how states could have the power to actually stop college-athletes from traveling to other states, isn't that yet another good reason to question why the heck taxpayers are subsidizing any of this travel in the first place?

The NCAA should feel free to boycott or to not do business with the state of North Carolina, just like any other business in the country. But the NCAA's operations are heavily subsidized by taxpayers, even as it brings in huge amounts of revenue—$1 billion a year. Students who attend colleges (public and private), their parents, and really, the massive government system that subsidizes college costs, are forced to fork out money to the NCAA to pay for all of this. What about those of us who don't think it's appropriate for taxpayers to be subsidizing the travel expenses of college athletes to any state, regardless of its positions on discrimination?

Not only is the NCAA making bank at our expense, that money's not even trickling down to the athletes themselves. Do the athletes support the NCAA's decision here? Maybe. Doesn't matter. They're there to serve the NCAA's interests. It doesn't have to be like this. The NCAA could be like any other business if we demanded it. There's certainly a big enough market to actually pay college athletes and to end athletic subsidies. Below are a couple of ReasonTV pieces about the college sports economic environment.

First, why the heck aren't we paying college athletes?

Second, why are we subsidizing college sports at all?