Today it was announced (though not yet confirmed) that the NWSL’s WNY Flash will be moving to Cary, North Carolina. This raises a lot of interesting questions, not the least of which is how the league and the team will protect LGBTQ players given an unwelcoming climate particularly with notably out WNY midfielder Lianne Sanderson.
As many are aware, the recently passed House Bill 2 (HB2) in North Carolina strips protections in public accommodations for transgender individuals. What many may not know is that North Carolina currently has no housing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals and nondiscrimination protections only in public employment, not private employment. HB2 also strips local governments (most notably Charlotte) from passing these protections into law themselves. Thus it is entirely possible that out Flash players, like Lianne Sanderson, could struggle to find second jobs and housing in North Carolina. Even if the community is welcoming and that proves not to be the case, the shadow of the anti-LGBTQ laws hanging over the team is hardly comfortable.
The team seems to be keenly aware of these issues. Prospective owner Steve Malik has hosted diversity events before through the Carolina RailHawks, whom he also owns. The RailHawks even went as far as releasing an official statement against the passage of HB2.
Unfortunately not everyone felt the same. Dan Lauletta, writer for Equalizer Soccer and analyst for Sky Blue FC wrote the following which I will intersperse with my comments:
One reason players may not want to play in North Carolina is HB2, a controversial bill that critics say discriminates against the transgender community. (It does, this is a fact, not an opinion. They only way you can even make this case is if you deny transgender identities. It also does a bunch of other things, things that have a potential direct impact on players. Lauletta probably should have looked up the full language of the law before writing about it.) The bill was nearly overturned after Election Day but hit a snag in the state legislature. (This is also incredibly dishonest phrasing.)
As a result of the “bathroom bill” (this is just poor writing as Lauletta doesn’t mention bathrooms above and doesn’t make the connection between the law and its nickname at all) the NCAA has pulled all of its events out of the state and the NBA moved its All Star Game. Several entertainers have canceled dates in North Carolina.
I am not going to pretend HB2 is a hot button issue to me personally, (I’m not going to pretend civil rights are a hot button issue to me personally but… Why even write this at all then? Or better, why not ask someone who is an expert on LGBTQ issues. Or a legal expert. Or literally anyone with any greater degree of knowledge. Hell, ask Megan Rapinoe.) but I do believe putting a permanent team in the state is entirely different from a one-off event that is easily relocated. The league—which has not commented directly on whether HB2 would impact its presence in the state—can stand on a moral principle and force the Sahlen’s to make other arrangements. But that strategy could wind up leaving the league out in the cold and maybe out altogether long after HB2 becomes either accepted or expunged.
Furthermore, while events have been taken out of the state, the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Hurricanes all remain. And there has been zero talk of pulling any of those three teams out of the state. There is no reason NWSL cannot figure out its place.
That he talks about this issue entirely in terms of PR for the league and not the very real impact it may have on the players and fans is mind-boggling.
It looks like Lauletta bends over backwards to use overly-neutral language to preserve his reputation among homophobic and transphobic readers who may think HB2 is a good idea. Acting like the impact of HB2 is opinion-based is just flat out dishonest. Unfortunately when pressed to explain, Lauletta doubled down on Twitter.
I pointed out the following things in my initial response to Lauletta:
- He doesn’t accurately describe HB2.
- His language is enabling of homophobia.
- He made no mention of the potential impact on the players, particularly the fact that HB2 makes it more difficult for LGBTQ players to find living accommodations or other work.
I also criticized the fact that Lauletta apparently doesn’t feel passionately about civil rights issues. (Largely because I found it to be somewhat disgusting, but “hey I don’t care about this stuff” is probably not a good phrase within a section about a topic you yourself have described as “controversial.”)
With the conversation already so far south I just cut right to the heart of the issue and asked Lauletta why he had chosen the phrasing he did, phrasing that seemed to deliberately try to land in between homophobia and inclusivity. Lauletta immediately got defensive.
I’m not sure what dishonest reporting and failure to do an appropriate amount of research on a “controversial” topic makes you. Or what not considering the effect on LGBTQ players makes you, especially when the team you work for has an out player in Natasha Kai. Reader’s choice on that.
Lauletta then launched into the tired refrain that sports and social politics are completely separate about one another. Unfortunately LGBTQ athletes don’t get to just be soccer players when their identity is questioned or demeaned or when they’re discriminated against for it. The two issues are inextricably linked so long as states want to continue to try and discriminate against people for their immutable characteristics. Likewise, the rest of us LGBTQ fans can’t just forget that laws like North Carolina’s don’t exist.
Jesus and they say marginalized people are quick to play the victim. At this point the worst I had said was “I also think civil rights not being a hot button issue for someone is bad humaning.” I don’t think Dan Lauletta understands what dehumanization actually is. The people he’s ignoring and insulting face it quite often.
(Dehumanization may, for example, be your state rejecting your identity and making it more difficult for you to find work or housing, or even a bathroom.)
I don’t really know what Lauletta was responding to here. The actual Tweet he responded to was me asking someone who’d said NC’s atmosphere for LGBTQ was just fine because I don’t think that people who don’t belong to a certain group are any sort of authority on what that group faces.
Overall I have conflicting feelings on the Flash’s move to North Carolina. I like that they will be providing a welcoming team and a safe atmosphere for LGBTQ individuals in a state that is severely lacking them. At the same time asking players to relocate to and play in an unsafe climate is difficult at best.