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NBA, Colleges React to Executive Order on Travel

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An executive order signed into effect on Friday suspending the United States Refugee Program a minimum of 120 days and banning entry to nationals of seven “countries of concern” for a minimum of 90 days has worried many international companies, among them the NBA and a number of American universities who have welcomed international students.

NBA spokesperson Mike Bass told The Huffington Post that the league has contacted the United States State Department for clarification on the order and its reach. The order, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” includes in its umbrella ban persons holding dual citizenship in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen.

“We have reached out to the State Department and are in the process of gathering information to understand how this executive order would apply to players in our league who are from one of the impacted countries. The NBA is a global league, and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world," Bass said.

According to Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, 29% of NBA players were born outside of the United States, and while some have obtained citizenship, others rely on green cards or work visas. Two players whose status is particularly precarious are Thon Maker of the Milwaukee Bucks, who holds dual citizenship in Australia and South Sudan, and Luol Deng of the Los Angeles Lakers, who holds citizenship in South Sudan and Great Britain.

While South Sudan, an independent country, is not on the list of seven, the executive order makes it clear that more countries may be added on the condition of a perceived threat. No current NBA players would be subject to deportation under the executive order, but there is some question about the ease of reentry if a team were to be scheduled against the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs.

“Given that the NBA’s regular and post seasons fall within the 90-day window, the executive order is an instant and pressing concern for the league,” wrote McCann.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities around the U.S. are issuing statements speaking out against the order and voicing concern about the long-term effect on American higher education, According to the Washington Post. Despite limits placed on the order by federal judges on Saturday, some international students overseas on break have been denied reentry and are unable to resume planned studies. School officials reaching out to their student body are forced to issue the blanket advice to refrain from international travel at this time.

The athletics program is a particular area of concern for the administration at Indiana University. The Indiana Daily Student reported that 15 of Indiana’s 24 athletics teams have international student-athletes, with a total of 53 international students from 20 different countries.  The IU Office of International Services sent out an emailed statement warning students of the implications of the executive order.

The statement included a message from IU president Michael McRobbie, who wrote, “To our international students participating in intercollegiate Athletics: I am reaching out directly to you during this uncertain and challenging time to make sure you know that you continue to be completely welcome here at Indiana University. Consistent with the tenants of The Spirit of Indiana: 24 Sports, One Team, we are committed to you and to diversity and inclusivity.”

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