Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Greensboro News & Record. Aug. 30, 2021.

Editorial: The ACC’s hometown faces an unsure future

Oh, the pangs of unrequited love.

We’ve fretted before that the Atlantic Coast Conference might leave Greensboro for a city with brighter lights and hotter sizzle.

Time was when slick suitors from Charlotte tried to pilfer the league’s headquarters in 1994.

Then-Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot and a contingent of Queen City executives offered an incentives-drenched proposal for the ACC to move there. “It seemed like a natural fit,” Vinroot said at the time.

The conference didn’t budge. Developer Joe Koury built the ACC new quarters off the golf course in Grandover. And the folks from Charlotte got to go back home to their traffic and their quaint coliseum.

But that was a different era and a different ACC.

Those were the days when Gene Corrigan and later, John Swofford, were ACC commissioners. Both felt a deep affinity for Greensboro and an appreciation for the city’s special place in ACC history. Swofford plans to spend his retirement here.

“Nora and I love Greensboro,” Swofford said of his and his wife’s regard for the city in 2020.

This was, after all, where the conference was born on May 8, 1953. Since that time, the headquarters has moved a few times — from the King Cotton Hotel to a downtown office building at 338 N. Elm St., to an office condo center at West Cornwallis Drive and Battleground Avenue, to the Landmark Center off West Wendover Avenue.

Same town, different addresses.

But now the chancellors and presidents who comprise the conference’s board of directors have asked its current commissioner, Jim Phillips, to look into a possible move. Now, instead of the ACC being recruited to move, the notion comes from within. Chancellors and presidents who comprise the conference’s board of directors have asked its current commissioner, Jim Phillips, to look into a possible move.

This is not idle speculation. Consultants have been hired.

As for the stakes, the ACC’s presence here, in numerical terms, is not that big: 50 employees.

But as a point of civic pride and identity, its impact is incalculable. And it would be another yet corporate headquarters leaving a town that is left with precious few.

Yes, it’s easier to get direct flights in bigger cities. No, the nightlife here may not rival Atlanta’s or Charlotte’s.

You could same about Green Bay, the smallest market in the NFL. In fact, when the team joined the league in 1921, it wasn’t only the smallest city in what was then the American Professional Football Association (except for Tonawanda, N.Y.), it was the sixth-smallest city in Wisconsin, behind places like Oshkosh and Superior. But can you imagine the Packers anywhere else?

Plus the ACC means more to us. In Charlotte or New York or Atlanta, it would have to vie for attention from myriad other sports, including pro franchises.

As for more revenue (a big priority for Phillips) and corporate branding, does the ACC, whose marquee sports are exposed on national television regularly, which has its own broadcast network, really need a big-city headquarters to achieve those goals?

If anything the ACC sometimes gets lost in the noise of larger cities. Remember how quietly the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament happened in Brooklyn?

As one league basketball coach said of Greensboro in 2019: “The one year we were there the people were great. The hotel we stayed at? They were great. They stayed up late waiting for us to return to the hotel and then they bent over backward to help us. That doesn’t happen in New York.”

As one league basketball coach put it in 2019: “The one year we played in Greensboro we didn’t win a game. But I realize Greensboro’s got a great history with the league and the league will always recognize that. And I’ll say this: The one year we were there the people were great. The hotel we stayed at? They were great. They stayed up late waiting for us to return to the hotel and then they bent over backward to help us. That doesn’t happen in New York.”

That wasn’t Mike Krzyzewski or Roy Williams. It was Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who had four years earlier made Greensboro sound like Hooterville or Bug Tussle in unkind cuts about its smallness.

But even Boeheim knows this city’s affection for the ACC.

The Greensboro Coliseum has hosted 27 ACC men’s tournaments, more than anyplace else. Greensboro is the unofficial home of that tournament, as well as the women’s tournament, which has enjoyed consistent success here. It’s where the sitting mayor, Nancy Vaughan, is the daughter of a director of the conference’s basketball operations and an assistant commissioner, the late Fred Barakat.

It’s got new hotels, a new performing arts center, great golf courses and a vibrant downtown.

If we were one of those consultants we’d remind the ACC to:

a) Remember from whence you came.

b) Pay homage to your heritage on Tobacco Road.

c) Dance with the one that brung you.

Thus as its branches twist and grow to who-knows-where amid the never-ending tectonic shifts in the college conference landscape, the ACC’s roots should remain firmly planted where it was born and where it will always receive the appreciation it deserves.

Stay here ... if you know what’s good for you.

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Charlotte Observer. Aug. 29, 2021.

Editorial: N.C. is verging on legalizing sports wagering. It should look harder at who might lose

In 2005, even after other states had chased eagerly after lottery revenue, North Carolina was still divided about getting into state-sponsored gambling.

It was symbolic of that division that it took a post-midnight, tie-breaking vote by then-Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue to send the lottery bill to then-Gov. Mike Easley, who signed it. Sixteen years later, those with moral qualms about a lottery and those with doubts about whether it would provide a lasting and significant increase in overall school funding have been largely vindicated.

As a practical matter, there’s no going back. The lottery is entwined in state finances and consumer expectations. But the state can still stop what could be an even more damaging dive into state-sponsored gambling – legal sports betting.

By a vote of 26-19 on Aug. 19, the state Senate approved and sent to the House Senate Bill 688, which would allow online sports wagering in North Carolina. The bill is part of a national trend. At least 20 other states have recently legalized forms of sports betting. They acted in response to a 2018 Supreme Court decision that struck down the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act as an unlawful limit on states’ autonomy.

The proposed law would have the N.C. Lottery Commission hire and regulate sports gambling companies that would offer opportunities to bet online on professional, college, electronic and amateur sports. Only those 21 and older would be able to place bets. An 8 percent tax on the companies’ adjusted gross revenue would generate between $8 million and $24 million annually, according to the legislature’s fiscal analysis staff.

The bill includes $1 million set aside annually to help problem gamblers, but that would hardly cover the damage of the state expanding gambling, especially when betting could be as easy as a few clicks on a smartphone. As an ad for the gambling company Draft Kings put it: “First there was Vegas. Then Atlantic City. Now, your pocket.”

Charles Clotfelter, a Duke professor of economics and law, said the easy digital access will intensify the impact on those vulnerable to excessive gambling. Clotfelter, along with Philip J. Cook, wrote a book on the regressive nature of lotteries, “Selling Hope: State Lotteries in America.”

“What we learned looking at lotteries and gambling in general is that certain kinds of gambling tend to be addictive,” Clotfelter told the Editorial Board. “If it’s easy to do, it has the potential of making the people who are already prone to do it do it more. To the extent you make it convenient, you could say you’re preying on people.”

John W. Kindt, a professor emeritus of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has testified before Congress about the hazards of legalized sports betting, agrees on the risk to youth.

“Access to gambling promotes gambling addiction,” he said. “As soon as this (bill) passes you are going to see widespread kids gambling on their cell phones.”

To such concerns, backers of allowing legalized gambling in North Carolina offer a weak rationale. Their argument – echoing the argument for the lottery – comes down to: Other states are doing it and we should get our share of the revenue.

But the state isn’t taking a share of the action. It’s creating and expanding the action, a move that could have negative effects on individuals and families and the integrity of sports. Meanwhile, the justification for taking that risk – more state revenue – is unlikely to significantly improve state finances.

It’s notable that legislation of this consequence is moving with little resistance or examination in North Carolina. University leaders and researchers, athletic conferences, mental health experts and opponents of state-sponsored gambling should speak against Senate Bill 688.

Legalizing sports wagering in North Carolina won’t generate enough revenue to compensate for its potential damage. It’s a bet North Carolina can’t afford to make.

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Winston-Salem Journal. Aug. 24, 2021.

Editorial: Viral ignorance creates unjustified anger

Rockingham County Schools is one of more than 30 districts in the state that have reversed earlier decisions to make masks optional.

It wasn’t easy, but the Rockingham County Board of Education rightly changed course during a heated emergency meeting on Friday in which a Harvard-trained pediatrician and infectious disease expert was called a “liar” and a “sell-out,” among other terms of endearment.

Citing a “big uptick in clusters of infection,” Dr. Zack Moore, a section chief for the state Department of Health and Human Services, added that there “are individual schools with 50 cases coming right out of the gate.”

Despite a lower risk of infection among young people, Moore said via Zoom, “it does happen. We’ve seen the rate of hospitalization for children going up rapidly for ages 5-17.”

As RockingmanNow’s Susie C. Spear reported, the anti-mask-mandate contingent in the audience had heard enough. In a loud and mostly hostile room, Moore’s call was cut short. He was heckled off his virtual stage.

“What is this, Nazi Germany?” a mask-mandate opponent said.

Other parents threatened to home school their children rather than have them wear masks. Still others threatened to vote the bums out who had dared to protect the best interests of their children.

The board’s critics seemed most rankled that it had changed its mind based on the facts.

In the age of COVID, the best-laid plans of mice and men have to be written in pencil. As a more virulent new strain of the coronavirus takes hold, what goes today may not go tomorrow, or next week.

That only makes sense. When conditions shift, so should public health precautions. Keep an eraser nearby.

At least some who spoke from the floor at the Rockingham County school board meeting seemed to appreciate that.

Young students may be especially vulnerable because they are not old enough to be vaccinated, Ashley Bullock, the mother of a student, reminded the school board. “This mask is all the protection they have, and they can’t survive going virtual at all. Rockingham County is a small county, but we’ve lost a number of people. ... My 6-year-old doesn’t deserve (to get sick). They have to wear masks. We can’t afford to have an outbreak and shut down (schools).’’

When the smoke had cleared, the board voted had 4-3 to change course. To judge some of the reactions, you would have thought they’d spit on the flag.

Closer to home, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools resumed classes Monday with in-person instruction — also with a mask mandate for indoor activities.

It is encouraging to see students in classrooms. Many had lost ground academically when the county schools pivoted to mostly virtual instruction as the coronavirus spread.

Sadly, the politicization of a public health issue is one reason the road back to normal has been so long and hard and riddled with asterisks.

Local entertainment venues are booking acts again, but hoping that no more virus-related cancellations will be necessary.

Most colleges and universities have resumed in-person classes, but COVID clusters have emerged in a dormitory at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The best we can do is hope more people can agree on facts and overwhelming evidence.

Judging from that scene in Rockingham County on Friday, as well as other examples of what we might call “vigorous denial of the obvious,” we’ve got our work cut out for us.

Now that the FDA has officially approved the Pfizer vaccine, maybe we’ll see some vaccine reluctance disappear. The time it took to vet the vaccine may help inspire confidence that its decision was careful, deliberate and not rushed by political pressure.

Back in Rockingham County, amid a chorus of rants from grown-ups, came the voice of reason from an elementary school student.

“We should have to wear masks for our own safety,” Kiyan Moore of Eden said, “because if we don’t, we will end up being sick with the coronavirus.”

From the mouths of babes ...

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