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California’s Travel Ban Could Wreak Havoc on College Sports

12 Jul, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

While the business of travel is picking its way carefully through the newest version of the international travel ban (and expecting more than a few court challenges), something more immediate and close to home is threatening sports travel in a number of states.

In the waning days of June, California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, passed a measure banning state-funded employee travel to Texas. According to Becerra, a new-on-the-books Texas law discriminates against LGBT people, and California law bans state-funded travel to states with such discriminatory laws.

According to an article in the Texas Tribune (which, by the way, contained the line, “The politicians running Texas and California continue to prove that they want nothing to do with each other,”) noted the impact on sports teams, particularly at the college level, could be profound.

At press time, there was no determination whether the new ban would apply to the coaches of California public university teams, who clearly need to travel to Texas with their teams for games. In addition, coaches from California frequently travel to Texas in order to recruit players. (The Tribune noted that the current football rosters at the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Berkeley and San Jose State University include Texans.) The newspaper also noted,

Texas is a regular host of NCAA postseason events that California teams aspire to compete in. San Antonio is hosting the 2018 Men’s NCAA Final Four, for example. And AT&T Stadium in Arlington regularly hosts games in the College Football Playoff.

The coaches are also clearly state employees. But for at least in some cases, their travel costs aren’t covered by state appropriations. Earlier this year, a UCLA spokesman told The Daily Bruin student newspaper that its athletics program doesn’t receive any state funding. School officials … have said in the past that they don’t have any plans to keep athletes out of postseason games in banned states.

However, it’s not the first time California has banned state-funded travel to specific states, based on their policies. According to an article in The Mercury News, one set of laws took effect in January, outlawing state employees and officials from using tax money to go to states with laws California deemed discriminatory in regards to LGBT issues.

The first states on the list were Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. But later, Becerra added Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota – and Texas. Three of the four new states recently moved to protect faith-based adoption or foster agencies who refused to place children with certain families, such as same-sex couples. Another protected religious expression in schools, including provisions on student organizations that LGBT advocates argue could allow clubs to shun prospective members based on their gender identity.

The Mercury News also noted the California Attorney General’s Office said Friday it has yet to issue an opinion on whether the ban on travel to Texas would apply to athletic staff members from Cal State and University of California, which is, of course, the answer everyone is waiting for. A spokesperson for the office said they plan “to provide guidance on this general issue soon.”

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