More than 200 athletes who had registered to compete in Ironman events in Raleigh and Wilmington North Carolina pulled out when Ironman gave them the opportunity to switch to other Ironman events, a move prompted by the state’s controversial LGBT law known as House Bill 2 (HB2).
Ironman gave race registrants the option to transfer to Ironman races in other states in 2016 if they made a request by May 9.
“As many of you are aware, the state of North Carolina recently approved a bill that has raised the concerns of many, including us at Ironman,” Ironman stated in an email to registrants. “While we plan to move forward with our races in Raleigh and Wilmington, we recognize that some of you may no longer wish to race in North Carolina.”
The Ironman races in North Carolina this year are Ironman 70.3 Raleigh (June 5), and Ironman 70.3 North Carolina and Ironman North Carolina in Wilmington (October 22). Ironman stated that the Raleigh event has 2,200 registrants and the Wilmington races have 2,900 so far.
“Ironman is an all-inclusive sport and we will continue to always provide an arena for all individuals to pursue their goals and dreams of becoming an Ironman,” the organization stated in the email.
HB2 was signed into law on March 23 and set a statewide class of nondiscrimination that does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. It requires people in government facilities to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate and overturns a Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance.
This month, the U.S. Justice Department sent North Carolina state leaders a letter stating that HB2 violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. If left in place HB2 could jeopardize billions in federal education funding. In response, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory filed a countersuit contesting the order. A number of major businesses have stated their opposition to the law, including Bank of America, Lowe’s, American Airlines and NASCAR. PayPal canceled a planned Charlotte expansion and many musicians have canceled concerts and conventions have pulled out of the state.
The story generating most of the news on this issue was in the Charlotte Observer, which quoted two postings in the Slowtwitch Forum.
Slowtwitch contacted several Forum posters via email for further thoughts on the issue.
Slowtwitch Forum user Walid Neaz wrote to Slowtwitch: “I was starting to be concerned about the extra costs incurred as a result of having moved to California - namely bike transport, having to stay in Atlanta for a week if I did not fly back, time zone adjustments, etc. So when Ironman presented the opportunity to switch, it was a no brainer to take up the opportunity. I now live in the San Luis Obispo area, and [the] Santa Cruz [70.3] is only about 3 hours drive away.”
Neaz said he would not have pulled out if Ironman had not made the offer to switch: “Personally, I oppose HB2. However, my opposition isn't that strong or personal enough to make me pull out of Ironman North Carolina 70.3.”
Mark McCain said his wife will be doing Ironman North Carolina this year - they alternate Ironman races. “We are doing IM NC,” he wrote. “We never considered deferring or cancelling. Ironman had nothing to do with HB2, and most likely neither did the businesses in the Wilmington area.” McCain added, “Sports and politics should not get in the way of each other.”
Kevin Morgan of Carrboro, North Carolina emailed Slowtwitch: “I can't stand HB2, and I was sorry to hear about people pulling out. I didn't know what to do, as I live in NC. So this was the best I could think of: Morgan will be wearing a T-shirt with the message “Flush HB2.”
Posting as FitOldDog_Again, he wrote on the Forum: “I don't plan to let [North Carolina Governor] Pat McCrory and his cronies ruin my fun, and all the work of the organizers - it's not their fault. I love this state, and hope those guys would stop being such bigots."
Slowtwitch Forum member Mark Bouffard is not registered to race but strongly supports boycotting all North Carolina events. “I was never registered for the race, but if I had been, yes I would have taken WTC up on the transfer simply because I would still have wanted to do a race at some point,” he wrote. “Had WTC not made an offer and were I registered, I would not have raced due to my objection to HB2.”
Slowtwitch Forum member Titanflxr is not registered for the race but posted to the Slowtwitch Forum about canceling a family vacation to North Carolina. He said that if he were registered and Ironman had not made the offer to enter another face, he would have pulled out and eaten the entry fee on principle. He added that he thought that Ironman’s response was “...adequate. They weren’t obligated to do anything. It’s nice they accommodated people who had registered and then had the passage of HB2 create an ethical conflict with participating.”