NC State PR Flacks Were Concerned About Appearing to Support HB2

NC State PR Flacks Were Concerned About Appearing to Support HB2

This is Part Two in a series. Read Part One here. Read Part Three here. Read Part Four here.

As top level officials and the communications teams at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University strategized how to inform the public about the Atlantic Coast Conference’s decision to remove a dozen of its sports championships from the Tar Heel State because of House Bill 2, they tarried over the wording of a joint statement that would be issued on behalf of UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson.

At one juncture, concern over how the universities would be perceived with regard to HB2 was sparked by the following sentence in a proposed statement:

Today’s decision to move neutral-site championships is disappointing and will negatively affect many North Carolinians, especially in the affected host communities.

Brad Bohlender via LinkedIn

Brad Bohlander via LinkedIn

Which prompted this response from NC State chief communications officer Brad Bohlander:

Could [this] be misinterpreted as any support of HB2?

The messaging about the decision on September 14th began before the 1:00 formal release of the ACC announcement. Woodson himself sent the following message to the members of the NC State Board of Trustees:

As many of you know, the ACC Council of Presidents met today and took the following action…. The vote was not unanimous. The good news is the ACC continues to support holding championship events on all of our campuses including those members in North Carolina. The championships at neutral sites will not be held in NC for the 2016-17 year.

I’ll have a chance at the trustee meeting tomorrow to provide more detail….

Yet despite that promise, there was no discussion of the matter at the Board of Trustees meeting, according to executive director of university relations Fred Hartman. The minutes of the meeting do not show that the topic came up either.

Do you really believe the highly controversial and top-of-the-newsworthy decision was not broached by Woodson or his Trustees the day after the announcement?

From ‘punished’ to ‘disappointed’

Throughout the day of the ACC announcement both UNC and NC State officials wordsmithed drafts of statements to be issued “by the chancellors,” to be released later in the day. The activity started in the morning, before the member university presidents cast their votes, with statements written up in case of either contingency: Whether the ACC presidents would either remove the championships, or delay a move.

One sentence in early versions stands out as especially strong — and accurate — but did not make it in the final version:

Regrettably, the conference found itself in a position of having to punish student-athletes, fans, and the host communities of the contests being relocated.

Less than an hour later that sentence changed “punish” to “disappoint” and became this:

Today’s vote by the Presidents’ Council is regrettable for our state. Moving neutral-site contests from North Carolina puts the ACC in the position of having to disappoint student-athletes, fans and the host communities of the contests being relocated.

Shortly thereafter the sentence — the one referred to above, which Bohlander was concerned about over appearing to support HB2 — was further watered down, de-personalizing those who would be harmed:

Today’s decision to move neutral-site championships is disappointing and will negatively affect many North Carolinians, especially in the affected host communities.

Bohlander also wanted the removal of a sentence that referred to plans to “to work with the conference,” stating the NC schools would make sure their restroom accommodations meet the ACC’s “transgender” standards. As for the statement the team worked so hard to craft, the final version ended up with this sentence – no “punish,” no “disappointing,” just “regret:”

We regret today’s decision will negatively affect many North Carolinians, especially in the affected host communities.

The day following the announcement may have created more heartburn for the communications flacks at UNC. Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs Rick White messaged with his vice chancellor, Joel Curran, about a follow-up statement. Again, they exhibited concern that the joint statement by Folt and Woodson appeared to support HB2, as revealed in a draft follow-up (that apparently never was issued):

Our statement yesterday on the decision by the ACC’s Council of Presidents may have created some confusion about our position on the vote and its outcome. Some reports took our statement to mean we voted in favor of the Council’s decision…

NC State leadership had other concerns as well following the ACC presidents’ decision. Deputy Athletic Director Christopher Boyer asked if the university would still host the cross country championships, scheduled for WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary at the end of October, because it was “not listed as a neutral site.” The ACC allowed that competition to go on as planned, despite the fact it wasn’t held on NC State’s campus.

Meanwhile, Folt and Woodson expressed appreciation for “the decision to keep ACC championship contests on our campuses.”

steve-kirschner-unc

Steve Kirschner

As for the NC communities that had the rug pulled out from under them, UNC senior associate athletic director for communications Steve Kirschner had some “talking points” for team coaches to use, should they need them. They included:

  • Support and show sympathy for the communities that are losing these showcase events
  • For a number of people these local events are like holidays…people who not only attend them but work at them look forward to these all year
  • Some, like women’s basketball, golfs, tennis, baseball — these cities and venues have become home to these sports and events
  • Disappointed for the student-athletes and fans of our teams that won’t be able to play and watch us play in the state for these championships
  • Impact goes beyond economics…prestige, reputation

In other words, UNC and NC State officials were happy it cost them nothing, because they kept the events that were scheduled on their campuses. But the local independent sites and venues in North Carolina that lost events had to suck it up.

What a cowardly decision, to inflict pain on others, that you refuse to accept on yourselves.

This is Part Two in a series. Read Part One here. Read Part Three here. Read Part Four here.

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1 Comment

  1. Do not back down on HB 2!!!!!!!!! I just still can't believe the power that the LGBT movement has. I refuse to allow my granddaughter to be forced to use a bathroom or shower with a male. It will be abused. This is not about not feeling bad for a child with a gender identity problem. It is about men and women pretending to be gender opposite to take perverted advantage of it. Tell me how you can stop that and I will change my mind.

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