'Religious Freedom' Law Impacts Southern Miss Baseball

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A recently passed Mississippi law that makes it legal for businesses to refuse service to anyone based on religious belief has thrown a wrench in the schedule of the University of Southern Mississippi baseball team.

According to the Biloxi Sun Herald, the law, known as House Bill 1523, was signed in April of 2016 by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant. On the same day that the bill was signed into law, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order barring non-essential state travel to Mississippi. Cuomo had, earlier in 2016, signed a similar order banning travel to North Carolina, after that state passed a law that required people to use public restroom facilities that matched the gender that appeared on their birth certificates.

Southern Miss had been scheduled to host a three-game series with New York’s Stony Brook University in February, but the Cuomo’s ban will block the games.

The ban apparently caught Stony Brook by surprise. Associate athletic director for communications Brian Miller said that other Stony Brook athletic department officials, including athletic director Shawn Heilbron, were unaware that Cuomo’s order included Mississippi. A decision to pull back from the scheduled series was made within the last few weeks.

The ban has forced Southern Miss to scramble to reschedule. Instead of playing three home games, the team will travel to Texas to take part in a tournament hosted by Stephen F. Austin.

“I just hate losing the three home games,” USM coach Scott Berry told the Sun Herald. “I’m sure it’s going to cost us for sure. That’s three gates and everything that goes into a game day in terms of revenue.”

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