U.S. News

North Carolina loses college sports championships over 'bathroom' law

FILE PHOTO - A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

(Reuters) - The governing board for U.S. college athletics said on Monday it will move seven championship sporting events out of North Carolina to protest a state law it deems discriminatory to transgender individuals.

It is illegal for anyone in the state to use a public restroom that does not match the gender they were assigned at birth.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) cited the law in its decision to relocate the events, which include the first two rounds of the “March Madness” men’s basketball playoffs.

Two months ago the National Basketball Association moved its 2017 pro All-Star Game from North Carolina to New Orleans for the same reason.

Access to public restrooms, locker rooms and changing areas has become a flashpoint in the battle over transgender rights in the United States as the North Carolina law has sparked boycotts by a number of corporations and entertainers.

North Carolina Republican Party spokeswoman Kami Mueller said the NCAA decision was “so absurd it’s almost comical,” according to a statement posted on Twitter.

The governing board said it was also stripping North Carolina of soccer, golf, tennis, lacrosse and baseball events, and would determine new locations for those competitions in the near future.

The NCAA also pointed to North Carolina statutes that it said override local laws designed to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

It said its decision was in line with NCAA policy that bans championships in states that display the Confederate battle flag of the U.S. Civil War or authorize sports wagering and at schools that use “hostile or abusive” Native American imagery.

Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by John Stonestreet