Thirteen SUNY athletes will be staying in the neighboring state of Virginia during the upcoming NCAA Swimming Championship to honor a three-year-old executive order that bans state-funded travel to North Carolina.
The athletes from three SUNY schools — Brockport, Geneseo and Cortland — qualified for the state championship being held next weekend in Greensboro, N.C., but they will be staying more than an hour, across the border in Virginia.
A Buffalo-area Republican senator and a handful of other legislators who represent the campuses in their districts have asked the governor to rescind the travel ban, or temporarily suspend it, so the SUNY swimmers can compete at the National Championship March 20-23..
During a recent press event in Albany, Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, joined by other legislators Robert Ortt, Daphne Jordan, James Seward and Marjorie Byrnes held a press-conference calling on Gov. Cuomo to “put the politics aside” and “do the right thing for these kids.”
“The governor’s [political] statement and his convictions is negatively impacting these kids,” Senator Gallivan said. “It’s incredibly unfair.”
In 2016, Cuomo banned all the non-essential, state-funded travel to North Carolina following the state’s controversial “bathroom bill” that requires transgender people to use restrooms that correspond to their birth assigned gender. Although this section of the bill has been repealed, there are still portions left that LGBTQ community finds offensive.
Due to the ban, a total of 13 athletes from SUNY Geneseo, Brockport and Cortland, who qualified for the NCAA Division III Swimming Championship will have to stay overnight in the neighboring state of Virginia and make an hour-long commute to the swim venue in Greensboro.
“That puts them at such a huge disadvantage of not being able to have that rest time,” Jordan said. “Especially when swimming, you’re talking about a one hundredth of a second difference.”
In response to the controversy, SUNY Geneseo along with SUNY Brockport have released official statements complying with the governor’s executive order that supports transgender rights.
“The members of [our] swimming and diving team are fierce competitors, and while the logistics of attending the meet will be challenging, the college supports the Executive Order that protects the rights of the transgender community,” reads the statement from SUNY Geneseo. “We have every expectation that with the perseverance and grit our team has demonstrated all season, our student-athletes will do well in the NCAA DIII national championship.”
SUNY Geneseo alumni and former student athlete Clint Sugnet started a GoFundMe campaign, that has already raised more than $7,000 to date, to help the swimmers pay out-of-pocket money for their accommodations in North Carolina.
However, regardless of where the money comes from, SUNY swimmers will not be able to use those funds if they want to abide by the governor’s Executive Order.
SUNY Brockport issued a statement similar to Geneseo’s:
“The College at Brockport believes all students deserve a campus culture of inclusive excellence in a welcoming environment, which is why we support the Governor’s executive order. While it will be logistically challenging, we have created a solution to allow our student-athletes to compete in their sport’s national championship. There is no place for discrimination in any form.”