By Colleen Jenkins
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sided on Thursday with those criticizing a controversial new North Carolina law requiring transgender people to use government and school bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate.
Trump said the law was unnecessary and people should be allowed to use whichever bathroom feels appropriate.
"Leave it the way it is," he said during a town hall on NBC's Today show. "There have been very few complaints the way it is," added Trump, who is front-runner to be the Republican presidential nominee in November's election.
National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver also on Thursday made his strongest statements yet suggesting that the league's 2017 All-Star Game would be moved out of the state if the law is not changed, the Washington Post reported.
At a meeting with Associated Press sports editors, Silver maintained that there was no deadline for making a decision about the event to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Corporations, entertainers and activists are calling for a repeal of the measure signed into law last month by the state's Republican governor, Pat McCrory.
State tourism and business groups say tens of millions of dollars in revenue have been lost as meetings have relocated, and entertainers including Bruce Springsteen canceled concerts. PayPal Holdings <PYPL.O> and Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE> halted or canceled plans to add jobs in protest at the law.
"North Carolina did something (that) was very strong, and they’re paying a big price," Trump said.
Trump's main rival for the Republican nomination, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, reiterated his support for North Carolina's law, which invalidated an ordinance passed in Charlotte and is now the subject of a federal lawsuit. [L2N1700NV]
"We shouldn't be facilitating putting little girls alone in a bathroom w/ grown men," Cruz, who is a social conservative and the father of two young girls, said on Twitter. "That's just a bad, bad, bad idea."
North Carolina's law has been criticized for denying protections to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community beyond bathroom access. McCrory has signaled a willingness to revise some aspects of the measure, but he and other top Republicans in the state are standing firm on the controversial bathroom provision.
McCrory is seeking re-election in November. His campaign has defended the provision saying it affects only bathrooms in public schools and government buildings, and private businesses are free to adopt their own bathroom policies.
(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein, Emily Stephenson and Megan Cassella; Editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)