Cuomo order against defunct NC bathroom bill means swim team must stay in another state

Student-athletes from a group of colleges in upstate New York may be at a disadvantage at this month’s NCAA Division III Swimming Championship in North Carolina because they'll have to stay in another state, thanks to an executive order by Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted in 2016.

The irony is that the order initially was in response to North Carolina's transgender "bathroom ban," which was repealed in 2017. However, Cuomo's order remains in place and the athletes still have to stay elsewhere

Over a dozen students from across three schools under the State University of New York (SUNY) system qualified for the competition in Greensboro, N.C. But because the current order from Albany, which bans publicly funded travel to the Tar Heel State, is still in effect,  the team will have to stay over an hour away from the competition site in neighboring Virginia.

“These kids have worked a lifetime to get to these championships,” State Senator Patrick Gallivan told Fox News. “It’s inappropriate to make a political statement on the backs of these kids.”

Gallivan recently sent a letter imploring the governor’s office to either rescind the order or at the least, make an exception for the SUNY swim team.

"Unfortunately, Executive Order 155, which you issued in 2016, would prohibit these athletes from actually staying in North Carolina, forcing them to make accommodations in a neighboring state and make lengthy commutes to and from the competition in Greensboro on a daily basis,” reads the letter, a copy of which was provided to Fox News.

“This is not only a distraction for the athletes and their coaches; it puts them at a competitive disadvantage and could have a negative impact on their performance. The additional travel required will also add to the overall cost for attending the tournament.”

Executive Order 155, which was signed into law in March 2016 by Cuomo, states that all New York agencies, departments, boards, authorities, and commissions must review all requests for state-funded or state-sponsored travel to the state of North Carolina so long as there is a law there that creates the grounds for discrimination against LGBT citizens. It also bars any publicly funded or publicly sponsored travel to such a location, unless such travel is necessary for the enforcement of New York State law.

The North Carolina legislature repealed the Bathroom Law, also known as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act or House Bill 2 (HB2) in March 2017. The NCAA also had a similar ban but has since reversed its policy.

“It’s inappropriate to make a political statement on the backs of these kids.”

— NY State Senator Patrick Gallivan

When reached for comment by Fox News, officials for Governor Cuomo’s office responded as if North Carolina’s ban was still in effect.

"In New York, we do not support blatant discrimination, bigotry, and bias. Standing up for equality is not a fad and as long as this anti-LGBTQ law remains in effect, New York tax dollars are not going to be spent there,” reads a statement provided to Fox News by Governor Cuomo’s office.

The officials did not immediately respond to a second inquiry from Fox News that made clear that HB2 was no longer in effect.

Gallivan says it’s not right that the students are being used as political pawns.

“He [Gov. Cuomo] said during the Amazon deal that putting political interest first was inappropriate,” Gallivan told Fox News. “It was relevant in that case and it’s just as relevant in this case.”

Normally, the NCAA covers travel expenses for teams participating in championship events like the one in Greensboro, and a go-fund-me page was created for the team by SUNY Geneseo alumni. But the team will not be allowed to use the $7000 raised because Cuomo’s office said the team would have to stay outside of North Carolina, no matter where the money comes from, in order to comply with the executive order.

Members of the swim team, which are comprised of students from three SUNY campuses, must stay nearly an hour north of the competition's North Carolina site in neighboring Virginia.

Members of the swim team, which are comprised of students from three SUNY campuses, must stay nearly an hour north of the competition's North Carolina site in neighboring Virginia. (SUNY Geneseo)

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Gallivan said. “It’s the NCAA that foots the bill. They pay for the lodging.”

Officials from the governor’s office said that there is a “limited exception” for the swim team.

“The issue is not just tax dollars, but the travel itself,” reads the statement provided to Fox News. “Under the Executive Order, if you are traveling under the banner of state travel in your state capacity you would ordinarily be banned from traveling there even if there is outside funding, but we are allowing the travel there in this instance to honor their commitment to the NCAA to participate in championships.”

In a statement released last week, officials for SUNY Geneseo said that the swim team was abiding by the order.

“The members of SUNY Geneseo’s 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. 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.”