Salt Lake City is going to lose the All-star game in 2023, and the NBA will be right to move the event out of a state whose legislature has doubled down on inequitable participation in sports.
There is precedent for the league taking such action. In 2017 the NBA moved the all-star game from Charlotte to New Orleans in objection of North Carolina’s passage of the state’s House Bill 2, which limited anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the state. The all-star game returned to Charlotte in 2019, after North Carolina repealed the bill.
Utah state House Bill 11, which will likely override a gubernatorial veto in a special session on Friday, is similar in its legislative attack on a vulnerable community. The bill bars transgender youth from participating in girls K-12 sports.
Of more than 75,000 student athletes in the state, the bill effectively takes aim at one single transgender individual who has participated in girls sports. The bill’s sponsor and its supporters claim that the bill is designed to protect the integrity and fairness in girls sports.
But allow me to repeat: the bill will affect one single trans-person from participating in girls sports. It will, however, signal to an entire community of trans-youth that they are not welcome and do not belong.
There will be, and has already been, much pearl clutching and virtue signaling about protecting cis-girls from being washed away in the inevitable, proverbial flood of trans-kids sure to start participating in sports. That’s the bill’s true intention: to stoke fear and division. The bill has been called a “poster child for bad legislation” by the conservative-leaning Deseret News. It is also an exercise in systematic oppression and hatred.
But, the conservative super-majority that makes up the state’s legislature is going to force the bill into law, despite being vetoed by Governor Spencer Cox, who cited the bill’s “fundamental flaws,” and because “the bill was substantially changed in the final hours of the legislative session with no public input and in a way that will likely bankrupt the Utah High School Athletic Association and result in millions of dollars in legal fees for local school districts…”
Ryan Smith has been vocal in his opposition of the bill, saying it was “rushed, flawed and won’t hold up over time.” Dwyane Wade, who joined the Utah Jazz ownership group last year, is the father of a transgender girl, and has been vocal in his support of trans communities. I cannot envision a scenario in which Jazz ownership lobbies against the NBA’s inevitable decision to move the event. And they shouldn’t.
Jazz fans, say goodbye to the all-star game in 2023. Let’s work together to get House Bill 11 repealed so that kids can return to sport, and sport can return to Salt Lake.