The special session convened in March to pass House Bill 2 cost North Carolina taxpayers about $42,000.
Since then, the state has lost millions upon millions of dollars, as corporations and event organizers have decided to pull out of the Tar Heel State in protest, culminating in announcements last week that the NCAA and the ACC were moving their championship games out of North Carolina.
"Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement on September 12. "We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans and everyone taking part in our championships."
The NCAA went on to explain its decision by noting that North Carolina's anti-LGBTQ law is different from those of other states. Beyond the singularly controversial bathroom issue, the NCAA pointed out, North Carolina also blocks local governments from passing antidiscrimination laws and allows some government officials to refuse services to LGBTQ people.
Two days after that, the ACC followed suit. Losing the ACC baseball tournament will cost Durham at least $5 million, according to the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau. The 2016 tournament netted the city another $186,000 in local sales-tax revenue, which is now gone, too. That loss, says Durham County commissioner Wendy Jacobs, is "so devastating for Durham"—and the damage extends beyond just one event. It could also hurt the county's ability to land future events, such as the Junior Olympics, which book two, three, or four years in advance.
Other North Carolina municipalities are hurting as well. The biggest loss so far came on July 22, when the NBA announced that it would move the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte. With that decision, about $100 million went down the toilet. Charlotte was also slated to host the ACC football championship in December—another $30 million gone.
Cary, which was set to hold four NCAA championships in late May and into early June, will lose an estimated $2 million, according to town officials. Greenville is also set to lose about $150,000 now that the NCAA has taken the women's golf championship out of state.
Greensboro is taking a bigger hit. In a September 16 email to legislators, Henri Fourrier, the president and chief executive officer of the Greensboro Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Greensboro will forfeit $16 million after losing three NCAA championships and another $7.5 million with the ACC women's basketball and men's and women's diving championships pulling out.
That's on top of the estimated $6 million loss Greensboro has taken since March, after six convention-type meetings—including those of religious and government groups—canceled. (Fourrier declined to specify which organizations bailed.)
In the email, Fourrier said he was "afraid that this pattern is not over as long as House Bill 2 remains in effect. Everyone speaks of bringing jobs to North Carolina, but if this hemorrhage continues we will soon be losing real jobs that are already in place."
"We're all kind of just tired and beat up," Fourrier tells the INDY. "We want to get back to the good work that we've been doing."
Already the state has suffered at least $160 million in sports-related losses. Probably more, since not every location has released numbers—like New London, which was set to host the ACC men's golf tournament.
But it's not just sports events fleeing the state. Soon after HB 2 passed, PayPal withdrew its plans to locate a global operations center in Charlotte. The facility itself was set to cost $3.6 million, but the payroll was estimated to be $20 million annually. Deutsche Bank, meanwhile, had plans to bring 250 new jobs to Cary. But because of HB 2, it decided to hold off on that expansion.
And then there are the losses from canceled conventions and concerts by the likes of Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen. The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau reported in July that sixteen groups had canceled gatherings due to the legislation, to the tune of about $5.6 million.
The total economic damage, according to an analysis published by Facing South last week, amounts to $230 million. Wired came up with an even more eye-popping estimate: $395 million.
Given the ongoing stalemate—the legislature signaled that, if Charlotte repealed its antidiscrimination ordinance, it would repeal HB 2, a move Charlotte quickly rejected—those losses will only continue to mount.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Reap the Whirlwind"