Did North Carolina "bathroom bill" doom Duke?

Up top, it is only fair to note that South Carolina upset Duke Sunday largely due to the fact that the Gamecocks had the best player on the floor – the melodically named Sindarius Thornwell.

But in this, the final act of a week of tournament basketball that seemed bent upon an impossible mission – humbling the ACC – may we also inject a dose of politics?

You’d also like to think that the setting played some part in the outcome. Just to further a point.

What sweet music it was, the roar of the crowd in Greenville, S.C., urging on the Gamecocks Sunday night, giving the lower-seeded team every advantage of a home court.

When economists weigh the impact of the NCAA’s decision to pull its tournaments and championships from North Carolina because of its “bathroom bill,” it’s easy to grow numb to the numbers. Most people don’t really feel the impact of those projections. Ah, but here was a ripple effect of that decision that strikes every fan at a visceral level.

Yes, government actions have consequences: Like putting native basketball teams in a real bind.

That game originally was supposed to be played in Greensboro, N.C., not Greenville, S.C. An easy drive from Durham. But then North Carolina passed the controversial House Bill 2. It bans people from using public bathrooms that don't correspond to their sex as listed on their birth certificates. It also prohibits local governments from enacting any additional rules against discrimination in public places based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And the NCAA reacted by moving its basketball tournament – among other events – out of the state.

Not that South Carolina is a haven of tolerance. That state faced similar double secret NCAA probation for refusing to lower the Confederate flag on its Statehouse grounds. It took the 2015 Charleston church massacre to finally convince the powers that be to lower the offensive flag.

But back to bathroom politics. The North Carolina law is a “stupid” provision – Mike Krzyzewski’s word, not mine, although I wouldn’t argue. “If I was president or governor, I’d get rid of it,” the Duke coach said.

You almost could feel a twinge of sympathy for Coach K and the Blue Devils falling partial victim to a law they obviously dislike. That such thoroughly unnecessary legislation should rob a team of the friendlier first-round venue it earned over the course of this season is a low blow.

Ah, but then you remember that it’s Duke, the favored son of every network and the object Dick Vitale’s rapturous ardor, and much of that sympathy evaporates.

The Blue Devils just paid the price for their location, one they may continue to pay until HB 2 goes away or they pick up the campus and move it out of range of that silly bill.

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About the Author

Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.