BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – More than a dozen student-athletes from three SUNY colleges have qualified to compete in the NCAA Division III national swimming and diving championships. There’s just one problem. The games are being held in Greensboro, North Carolina, and a ban on New York State-sponsored non-essential travel to that state remains in effect. A local State Senator is urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to lift that ban.
Back in 2016, North Carolina passed and enacted a controversial “bathroom bill” which required people using restrooms in government buildings to utilize the facilities corresponding with the gender listed on their birth certificate. The bill created a backlash which included business boycotts that included one by the NCAA, which withdrew its competitions from the state.
In New York, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order imposing a ban on all non-essential state-sponsored travel to North Carolina.
North Carolina rescinded the law the following year and the NCAA resumed doing business with the state. New York’s ban, however, remains in effect.
“The legislation that gave rise to the executive order doesn’t exist anymore,” said New York State Senator Patrick Gallivan, who represents the 59th District. “I would suggest the executive order is not necessary, without arguing the merits of it, whether it should have been done or not.”
The student-athletes, representing SUNY Geneseo, Brockport and Cortland, may compete in the NCAA Division III Championships, which begin March 20. Under the state’s current travel ban, they would not be allowed to seek accommodations in North Carolina and would instead be forced to stay in hotels outside state lines.
That, Gallivan says, is unfair to the student-athletes, who would find themselves traveling more than an hour in each direction to get to and from venues in Greensboro. The forced additional travel, he argues, puts New York’s athletes in a position which could adversely affect their performance in the pool.
“It’s different than a team competition. The kids are back and forth,” Gallivan said. “They’ll have no place to rest, no place to relax. They’ll be incredibly inconvenienced. And they still have their academic obligations that they have to follow through. It could negatively impact that. It just puts them at a competitive disadvantage.”
Affected are ten student-athletes from SUNY Geneseo, two from SUNY Brockport and one from SUNY Cortland. Whether Cuomo agrees to lift the ban remains to be seen. While North Carolina has repealed the 2016 law, but its state legislature has also blocked local governments from passing non-discrimination laws on bathroom access until the year 2020. That newer legislation is being challenged in court.