Kinston mayor, residents react to NJCAA choice to move baseball series

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – North Carolina’s House Bill Two has caused another economic blow to the state after the National Junior College Athletic Association decided to move its world series out of Kinston due to the law.

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy said politics should not interfere with baseball, and he was angry after learning the three-year deal with the NJCAA was terminated.

“The smiles on the official’s faces, one would think we would’ve have a decent shot at having the series again,” Murphy said. “There could’ve been exponential negative impacts from this one-year season.”

He said the economic loss is around $350,000, and he has asked the NJCAA to reconsider their decision to move the D-3 world series someplace else.

Mike Martin, who lives in Kinston, said the tournament was a fun night on the town for people in Kinston.

“My family, my wife and our daughter were there every single night,” said Martin.

He said this is a heartbreak for both the people and businesses in the area, but he said he supports the NJCAA’s decision behind it.

“As an individual who has a transgendered family member, the law is intimidating for my cousin, and it’s hurtful for my cousin,” said Martin.

Martin grew up watching baseball in Grainger Stadium and said this is just the latest upset for the state and Lenoir County.

WNCT was first to obtain letters and correspondence regarding the NJCAA Executive Committee’s decision to pull the tournament from Eastern North Carolina.

According to one of the letters, Mary Ellen Leicht, Executive Director with the NJCAA said, “The NJCAA believes that the current HB2 law in North Carolina poses specific challenges to the inclusive environment that we believe should not be in question at its national championships.”

In response to the decision, Mayor B.J. Murphy sent a letter asking for the sports association to reconsider its decision. He said, “Politics has no place in sports. While the NJCAA may have the freedom to remove the Division III World Series from the City of Kinston—it is my hope that the grave collateral damage that this decision will unjustly create, may cause pause and reconsideration. The people of eastern North Carolina are ready, willing, and happy to show the NJCAA our warm southern hospitality in hosting this championship game for the third year in a row— and respectfully ask that you not punish the innocent people of Kinston for something they had no part in.”

Leicht added, “This decision is in no way a reflection on the community of Kinston, but rather it is a decision which had to be made for the benefit of our student-athletes.”

Mayor Murphy said the city will release more details regarding the impact of the NJCAA in a Monday afternoon news conference. Stay with WNCT as more details become available.

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