Anyone who considers themselves a sports fan has experienced getting lost in the commotion and excitement of a game. But every so often, an issue will pop up that reminds us of our reality, and the games and fanfare must take a backseat.
California Assembly Bill No. 1887, which took effect this year, prohibits state-funded travel to states with laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Among other things, this law will prohibit UC and California State University athletic programs from scheduling games in Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. The Cal men’s basketball team has already cut off talks with the University of Kansas for a home-and-home series.
The state made the right call by instituting this law. Now, student-athletes are not pressured to take a political stance that could threaten their enrollment and scholarships. It also protects athletes who identify as LGBTQ+.
The world of basketball has taken, especially in recent years, socially progressive stances. Last season, the NBA moved the All-Star Game — a popularity contest guaranteed to draw millions of viewers — out of Charlotte, North Carolina, because the state had passed House Bill 2, or HB2, a law that permits discrimination against members of LGBTQ+ communities.
Similarly, the NCAA, the official governing body of college athletics, has threatened to remove all championship games — most notably March Madness — from North Carolina until 2022 unless the state repeals HB2.
These commitments against discrimination have already had a political influence. The current governor of North Carolina ran on a platform to repeal HB2, and Thursday, North Carolina state lawmakers filed legislation that could make his aims a reality.
Much of this change resulted from a united front of larger organizations, such as the NCAA and NBA, that condemned state laws. The NCAA therefore has a responsibility to step in — just as it did against North Carolina — to move games out of those other states that allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Although there are many prestigious college teams in those states, a game does not compare in importance to tackling deep social and political problems that divide our country. California’s law is a creative way for the state to ensure that its liberal values are heard throughout the country.
Sports has a storied history of bringing communities together to root under one banner. While there are people who complain in hopes of leaving politics out of sports, what they fail to recognize is that laws discriminating against certain communities are contradictory to the spirit of sports.
Politics and professional sports have intertwined many times to tackle social issues in the past. We are now feeling the intersection of politics and sports at the collegiate level, and we can no longer ignore the responsibility to fight discrimination of any form.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.