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Black Bears protest North Carolina's HB2 law

ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The University of Maine men’s basketball team is the latest organization to stand up against North Carolina’s House Bill 2 law, involving transgender rights. North Carolina signed the bill into law back in March. It requires transgender people to use restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate.

Several athletic corporations have pulled out of events in the state, including the NBA All-Star game and the NCAA Championship events because of the law. But the UMaine men’s basketball team is taking a different approach to protest the law.

Some America East teams have canceled games in North Carolina, but the Black Bears will be playing Duke University on Saturday. They will be wearing special warm-up shirts before the game, as a way to protest the controversial law.

“It’s really just an opportunity to promote inclusion, to promote respect, and to promote equality. We thought it would be a good learning opportunity for our players. An opportunity for them to understand the platform we have as male athletes,” said head coach, Bob Walsh.

Other America East schools have boycotted the HB2 law altogether. The Albany men’s basketball team canceled its match-up with Duke and the Vermont women’s basketball team canceled its road game against North Carolina. But Coach Walsh said cancelling the game would not send a message.

“We thought we could make more of an impact by doing what we’re doing. We just thought if Maine decided not to play, that really wouldn’t make much of a difference,” he said.

Maine will receive $85,000 from Duke to play there, but this protest will be used as an educational experience for its student-athletes.

“We thought it is going to be a great experience for our guys. We could teach our guys something about equality and we could also show some leadership, as far as inclusion and respect and equality, which is really important to us,” said Walsh.

Duke University, a private university, has been outspoken against the law. Coach Mike Krzyzewski even publicly condemned the law, calling it “embarrassing”. Coach Walsh hopes this stance will continue the conversation about equality.

“Hopefully our guys have a better understanding of the inequality that’s out there and what we can do to make a difference and hopefully some people around the country will understand the same thing. We all have the ability to stand up to make a difference and if it’s something you believe in, then you should do that.” 

The Black Bears are doing a lot more than just wearing tee-shirts to stand up against the law. The players are meeting with Duke Athlete Ally, an advocate group for social justice and inclusion.

Copyright 2016 WCSH

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