Scott Hamilton, Sports Columnist

Hamilton

Gov. Roy Cooper is banking that the stain can be scrubbed off. That is, if we even get a chance to clean up our state’s image.

He is pleading for legislators to repeal North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, aka House Bill 2, aka HB2. Going by yet another apt moniker, the bathroom bill, among other things, requires transgender citizens to use the public restroom of their biological sex.

Cooper is pushing a plan that would enact tougher penalties for crimes in bathrooms or changing rooms.

It would also require that local governments give the legislature 30 days’ notice before voting on non-discrimination ordinances.

The clumsily composed HB2 — which was approved during a 12-hour emergency session last March — lacks both enforceable penalties and a waiting period.

However, North Carolina, or at least its major sports future, doesn’t have the luxury of waiting.

The clock is loudly ticking when it comes to bringing NCAA championships back to The Tar Heel State. Starting in March, committees will meet and begin the deliberation process that will result in dozens of championship sites being awarded to spots around the country. More than 130 cities and schools in North Carolina submitted bids with the hopes of being able to claim status as a championship locale over the next six years.

Their efforts will be moot, however, if the status quo remains intact. The NCAA and a bevy of other conferences, leagues and organizations have said that North Carolina is verboten — or, more appropriately, taboo — so long as HB2 remains on the books.

Don’t believe it?

Then tune in this weekend and watch the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans instead of Charlotte. The Big Easy will get a big boost thanks to an expected economic impact of more than $100 million. Its coffers will bulge with money that Charlotte began spending when it was awarded the All-Star Game in 2015.

Will the NBA come back someday with its signature exhibition weekend? Possibly, though it says only after HB2 vanishes. Likewise for the NCAA and the ACC. The last two have been mainstays in this state almost since Naismith’s game stopped utilizing peach baskets, yet both have proven they will sadly, though swiftly, send their products elsewhere.

“They’ll come back,” Cooper said. “They know that North Carolina is a great place to do business, a great place to come. I think they know this is not who we are as North Carolinians. We are welcoming, we want people here. Yes, we had a legislature that did this. But if you look at the polling, a majority of North Carolinians do not want House Bill 2.

“I think we’ve built up enough goodwill over the decades, that is if we do what we need to do now, that they will come back. They want to be back in North Carolina.”

Yet the average outsider isn’t poll-savvy. And goodwill only goes so far. We’re all guilty by association or, at any rate, that is the perception.

That weighs heavily on decision-makers with the NCAA and even the ACC, which has only known its home to be in the Triad. Even the conference that John Swofford has fashioned into the best college basketball conference in the world, if not also the best college football league in all the land, must view its home state through a different lens.

It’s the same lens the rest of the nation — the ones who assume Texas Pete is a folk hero and that all barbecue is created equal — uses to size us up. What it presents isn’t pretty.

“For decades, you could go across this country and (when) people would ask where you’re from you’d say ‘North Carolina,’” Cooper said. “Then they’d start talking about our great universities or our banks or the mountains or beaches. Now, a lot of times, what you hear is ‘What in the world is going on in North Carolina?’ because they recognize this is not who we are.”

Perhaps.

But just as a team’s record ultimately validates its identity, our state’s laws go a long way toward reinforcing our image.

And right now it’s not a good look.

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Listen for “The Scott Hamilton Show,” weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on 600 WSJS or streaming live on www.WSJS.com

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