California's Travel Ban Could Impact College Athletics

Jason Scott Headshot

These days, it seems as if everything, from your morning cup of coffee to the sports you watch on television, is becoming politicized. College athletics is not immune to the trend.

A California law passed in January will prohibit state-funded travel to states that the law deemed discriminatory against gay and transgender people. That means that state-funded athletics programs, including the UC and CSU university systems, could be prohibited from traveling to the states of Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota — and perhaps most notably, Texas. Many of those states have adopted so-called “bathroom bills” that restrict access to restroom facilities for transgender people. North Carolina made many headlines last year, after both the NCAA and the NBA removed their events from the state in response to that sort of legislation.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the ban could impact sports schedules, recruiting and fundraising visits. But many questions around the law’s implementation remain.

Games that were scheduled prior to the law were exempted, and athletes were allowed to compete in banned states through the 2016-2017 season. But as the calendar turns to 2017-18, whether sports teams can continue to compete in banned states remains an open question.

The law, known as AB 1887, was originally passed with the intent to protect state employees from being made to travel for work purposes to places where they might encounter discrimination. A spokesperson for the bill’s author, assemblyman Evan Low, told the Union-Tribune that the law is meant to “send a message to those states.”

But there’s no question that the bill is having some unintended ramifications, particularly in athletic departments.

“I’m sensitive to equal rights for everyone,” San Diego State AD John David Wicker told the Union-Tribune, “but at the same time we still have to be able to go about the business of college athletics.”

Some workarounds, including using private money as opposed to state money to fund travel to banned states, have been proposed, but some feel that that unfairly burdens smaller programs, while also violating the spirit of the law.

Should college sports be used to influence policy in this way, or should they simply “stick to sports?”{module CA travel ban}

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