The University of Maine Black Bears wore rainbow shirts during their warm-ups at their game against Duke University on Saturday, Dec. 3 in protest of the North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2). The shirts were black with a rainbow America East symbol on them, to signify that they did not stand alone in this protest.
Not every member of the team wore the shirt, but they were all given the option to, with two players opting to wear their regular warm-up shirt. The team also met with an Athlete Ally group at Duke prior to the game, which encourages inclusion and battles against the discrimination of LGBTQ community members. On their return to the University of Maine, the team will also be meeting with the LGBTQ Services group on the campus. Duke members, including the Duke basketball coach, have also previously spoken out about this law
The law, HB2, requires that North Carolinians use the restroom that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate. The bill was passed on March 23, in a one-day session that was convened especially for the consideration of this bill. It applies to bathrooms in government buildings, schools and public universities, so Duke, as a private university, does not have to be in accordance with the law.
According to the America East Twitter page, the Black Bear team met with Chris Mosier prior to their trip to North Carolina to learn more about this bill and inclusion. Mosier is the first trans member of Team USA and a transgender advocate and speaker.
Maine’s protest of this law was not the only backlash that the bill has seen in sports. The NBA announced on July 21 that they would not be holding the All-Star Game in Charlotte in 2017, as they had previously announced, costing the city millions in revenue.
In college basketball, seven championships that were to be held in North Carolina were removed from the state. A number of other schools had also opted to cancel their sporting events with Duke after they announced the law.
Albany was one of the schools that canceled their men’s basketball game at Duke to support the non-essential travel prohibition given by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in protest of the bill. Vermont’s women’s basketball team also canceled their road trip to play against North Carolina.
Many of the teams that decided to travel to Duke protested the bill similar to what the Black Bears did. For example, Marist players wore rainbow socks to show support of the people they felt were targeted by this bill, the LGBTQ community.
America East as a whole has been fervently pro-inclusion since they partnered with You Can Play in 2012, being the first league in the conference to partner with the LGBTQ community and have all nine conference members have “You Can Play” nights throughout the fall, winter and spring seasons.
This bill has been a concern for activists since it’s passing in May and has cost North Carolina millions in lost revenue. In addition to athletic protests, musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Ringo Starr and companies such as PayPal have cut ties with North Carolina since HB2’s passage.