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Patrick Gannon: Understanding the ACC vote

RALEIGH — The leaders of North Carolina’s major universities are paid big bucks to make tough decisions, back them up and stick to them.

But the chancellors of three of the state’s four Atlantic Coast Conference member universities won’t say whether they voted to move 2016-17 ACC sports championships out of North Carolina, the latest economic losses from the disastrous House Bill 2. (No matter which side you’re on, HB2 is a disaster for this state.)

By some estimates, it’s costing North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars. The state is also taking a hit nationally and internationally. Nearly 60 percent of likely voters in a recent Elon University poll said they believe HB2 has damaged North Carolina’s reputation, while 11 percent said it has improved its reputation.

The 15-member ACC Council of Presidents voted recently to move 10 neutral-site championships in various sports out of North Carolina in response to the law, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory. The decision will cost the host cities and venues significantly, and it’s led at least a few Republican lawmakers to call for changes to or a full repeal of HB2.

The law limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals and requires transgender individuals to use bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates, rather than the gender with which they identify.

The ACC chancellors could have given reasonable explanations for voting either way, but apparently don’t want whatever scrutiny would come from revealing their votes. Yes, it’s a thorny political topic at a thorny political time, but the public has a right to know where they came down.

Did they choose to send the games away to protest House Bill 2 and encourage our elected leaders to do something about it? Or did they vote to keep the games here, attempting to prevent the economic damage of lost championships and revenue?

For three of the four chancellors of N.C schools, we don’t know and may never know.

According to The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt wouldn’t say how they voted. (They both make more than $500,000 a year in base salary.)

“The ACC Council of Presidents discussions, deliberations and breakdown of votes are confidential,” they said in a joint statement. “We can confirm it was a thoughtful and vigorous discussion and was not a unanimous vote.”

Confidential? That’s strange.

Duke University confirmed that its president, Richard Brodhead, voted to move the championships out of the state. Duke’s athletic director, Kevin White, recently called the legislation “discriminatory, troubling and embarrassing,” the paper reported.

Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch also wouldn’t say whether or not he voted to move the games from the state. “I support the goals of the ACC to create a welcoming and inclusive environment,” Hatch said in a statement. “I hope in the near future the state can eliminate any doubt we all hold the same values.”

No doubt it was a tough decision for the ACC leaders, especially those in North Carolina. But they are paid to make tough choices that they believe are in the best interest of their students and schools.

And knowing how they voted could tell us a lot.

Patrick Gannon is the columnist for the Capitol Press Association. Reach him at pgannon@ncinsider.com.

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