August 25, 2017 at 11:45 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Travel bans complicate sporting events in states with anti-LGBT laws
travel bans, gay news, Washington Blade

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo enacted a ban on official state travel to North Carolina after its legislature passed a notorious anti-LGBT law. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

In the aftermath of states enacting anti-LGBT laws, other jurisdictions have responded with bans on state-sponsored travel to those places — and the impact is already being felt in the sports world.

A number of states and D.C. enacted travel bans to North Carolina after passage of House Bill 2 — and renewed those bans after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper replaced it with another law critics say is still discriminatory.

As a result of the travel ban enacted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the State University of New York at Albany last year had to back out of a non-conference men’s basketball game set to take place at Duke University. Additionally, the NCAA altered the seeding for Stony Brook University’s women’s lacrosse team in the postseason tournament so the team wouldn’t have to travel to University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The New York ban is also influencing upcoming games in the Colonial Athletic Association, the only Division 1 conference whose membership includes public schools in New York and at least one in North Carolina. It makes things complicated for Stony Brook University’s football team, which is set to compete against Elon University in the fall.

Because the competition was scheduled before House Bill 2 became law, New York granted Stony Brook an exemption to the travel ban, but that won’t be an option in the future. The conference is now identifying a different scheduling matrix for games between 2018 and 2021.

Hudson Taylor, executive director of Athlete Ally, said the rescheduling of the conference demonstrates the travel bans are having an impact.

“They’re having to completely overhaul their scheduling processes to change how games are scheduled and where there can be held because they’re seeing teams who are saying we’re not going to travel and we’re not going to compete,” Taylor said. “We’re definitely seeing an impact — at least at the conference level about the approach to scheduling games and where these types of competition will be held.”

Even though the bans are only for state-sponsored travel, and thus would affect only public schools, not private schools, Taylor said even private schools are acting with anti-LGBT laws in mind in terms of sporting events.

The Marist Red Foxes, for example, made the decision to travel last year to North Carolina to compete at Duke University, but also met with a local LGBT center and wore special warm up gear to show solidarity with LGBT people. According to ESPN, many teammates sported red, tie-dyed shirts that read “Love is Love” on the front and “I stand on the right side of history.”

“They felt and I think a lot of schools are going to feel that if we can actually travel and make a difference … that is a more meaningful experience, than, just say, boycotting,” Taylor said.

Whether these interferences with sporting events are having an impact on anti-LGBT laws is another question. After all, HB2 may be gone, but North Carolina’s new law bars city pro-LGBT ordinances for three years and state institutions from making bathroom policies for transgender people.

Hudson said the cancellation of sporting events is “another arrow in the quiver for the movement,” but the impact is still playing out and may be more clear at a later time.

If Texas goes through during its special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott with an anti-LGBT law of its own, Hudson said there could be additional fallout with sporting events, citing recent opposition from the Dallas Stars to the pending proposal.

“I think it’s very possible we see the anti-LGBT laws that were introduced be defeated and not pass during the special session,” Taylor said.” And I think you can attribute some of the pressure that these bans and statements from the athletic community that they’re making, I think you can attribute some of that to the failure of the bills, should it happen in Texas.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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