How Fast-Acting New Orleans Won Over the NBA
After the NBA announced it would move its All-Star Game game from Charlotte, North Carolina, because of discrimination concerns, New Orleans worked quickly to put together a bid that focused on creating a welcoming environment. Despite the challenging logistics of taking on the event with just six months of lead time, the city believes it can pull it off.
It wasn’t a total surprise that the NBA picked New Orleans as the site of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game last week, roughly a month after the league announced it would not hold the game in Charlotte, North Carolina, because of the state’s controversial HB2 law, which is seen by many as discriminatory.
New Orleans has hosted the game twice previously, but it still had to make a pitch to the NBA. The city and the state of Louisiana pursued a thoughtful strategy to convince the league that it was taking discrimination concerns seriously.
Almost immediately after news of the potential move broke last month, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards made a pledge to help New Orleans Pelicans owner Tom Benson and the NBA prepare to bring the game to his state.
“My office will support and assist Tom Benson and the New Orleans Pelicans in any way possible to help bring the NBA All-Stars back,” Edwards said, according to The Times-Picayune. “Louisiana is rich in diversity of heritage, culture, cuisine, and people, and we believe the NBA could not select a better place for everyone to come and enjoy this spectacular sporting event.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu also emphasized the city’s diversity.
“New Orleans is a diverse, open, and inviting city, and we pride ourselves on our ability to host major sports entertainment events,” he said after the move from Charlotte was announced.
In a statement reported by the Times-Picayune, Benson credited the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau for its help in putting together a bid in just a few weeks.
“New Orleans has hosted the All-Star Game twice in the past nine years, and is a perfect destination for NBA fans,” Benson said.
Good News During a Tough Time
Last week’s announcement came at a time when Louisiana had other concerns on its mind—specifically, recovering from the major flooding that has affected the state and its residents and, according to the Red Cross, is the worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy.
Edwards said the announcement, rather than being a distraction, was a show of support to a struggling region, noting that the NBA gave the city a boost when it brought the game to Louisiana in 2008, less than three years after Hurricane Katrina.
“While we move into the recovery phase of this disaster, I want to thank the NBA for the vote of confidence in our state to host this event and their support of the relief efforts currently underway,” Edwards said, according to the Associated Press.
A Packed Schedule
While bringing the game back to the city is good news for New Orleans, the logistics will be challenging during the weekend of February 17, 2017, when the game is scheduled to take place. A number of conventions and Mardi Gras parades are planned for the same weekend.
Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans CVB, said it won’t be easy, but they’ll pull it off. (Good luck getting a hotel room that weekend, though.)
“It’s going to be one of the most interesting and complicated weekends we’ve ever had,” Perry told Best of New Orleans. “In addition to the All-Star Game, we have two citywide conventions that weekend, we have a lot of corporate meetings and associations in hotels, and, of course, Mardi Gras. We’re going to have a sold-out city.”
A sign from the 2008 NBA All-Star Game, also held in New Orleans. (Mark Gstohl/Flickr)