California's ban on state-sponsored travel raises questions about college sports

Under the bill, California prohibits state-funded and state-sponsored travel to states deemed to discriminate against LGBTQ populations.

California student athletes at public universities may have to be educated about LGBTQ laws prior to away games in states on the ban list.

California recently added more states to its state-sponsored travel ban list due to the passage of “discriminatory” laws against the LGBT community. 

A 2016 bill, AB 1887: Prohibition on State-Funded and State-Sponsored Travel to States with Discriminatory Laws, forbids state government employees and members of state sponsored institutions from traveling to states that have enacted “discriminatory” laws against LGBT people. 

Those restrictions apply to the University of California and California State University systems, which raises the question whether student athletes at those institutions will be able to travel to the banned states for away or post-season games.

“California must take action to avoid supporting or financing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” the bill states. 

States that have “voided or repealed existing state or local protections against discrimination,” “authorized or required discrimination against same-sex couples or their families,” or “created an exemption to antidiscrimination laws in order to permit discrimination against same-sex couples or their families or on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression” were added to the state-sponsored travel ban list. 

The seventeen states on the prohibition list are Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, North Dakota, Arkansas, West Virginia.

AB 1887 applies to “state agencies, departments, boards, authorities, and commissions,” in addition to the University of California and its Board of Regents as well as California State University. 

Cindy Peters, Senior Media Relations Specialist at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, told Campus Reform that “Cal Poly Pomona does not schedule regular season competition or recruiting travel to California travel ban states.”

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Campus Reform investigated sites of upcoming college sports championships to find out whether they will take place in states included on the travel ban list. 

 In 2022, March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball tournament, is slated to take place in several states including two banned states: Texas and South Carolina. In 2021, the University of California, Los Angeles men’s basketball team made it to the Final Four. 

The 2022 NCAA DI women’s basketball tournament is scheduled to occur in Kansas and North Carolina. In 2023, the tournament is expected to be held in Dallas, Texas. 

The Big 12 Baseball Championship will take place in Oklahoma, another banned travel state, in 2022. 

In December 2021, the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament is expected to be held at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. 

The 2023 and 2024 Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship are scheduled to occur in Tampa, Florida and Louisville, Kentucky, respectively. 

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Campus Reform reached out to public universities in California to ask what would happen if one of their sports teams made one of these events. Would they be allowed to travel, or would they have to forfeit?

UC Berkeley spokesman Herb Benenson replied to Campus Reform and said that “the University of California, the Berkeley campus and Cal Athletics are completely aligned with the State of California on the importance of creating and fostering a safe and inclusive environment for all members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“AB 1887 is a California state law that prohibits state-funded travel to states that have enacted laws that discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. Cal Athletics does not use state funds when our teams travel to away-from-home competitions,” he continued.

“Should a team travel to a state on the restricted travel list, educating all student-athletes, coaches and staff about AB 1887 and the relevant laws in the destination state will be a high priority. Cal Athletics will also inform teams about opportunities to support the local LGBTQ community and enhance their understanding of relevant social issues. Any individuals in the travel party will have the option to opt out of the trip with no negative consequences for their decision,” Benenson concluded.

Cindy Peters also told Campus Reform that Cal Poly Pomona does not use “state funds or student fees” for “travel to California travel ban states.” 

”We initially use Foundation (fundraised) funds to travel and upon reimbursement from the NCAA re-deposit those funds in our Foundation account,” Peters said. 

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