A scheduled September 8 football game between UCLA and Oklahoma is in jeopardy of being canceled, and this might just be the tip of the iceberg with more postponements in college sports to follow, courtesy of politics.
In 2017, California began banning public employees from taking business trips to states that California perceives as having discriminatory policies towards gay and transgender people. Currently the number of states that have drawn California’s ire is up to nine. As you can guess, Oklahoma is one of those nine states.
Now several California lawmakers are scratching their heads wondering if it is legal for the UCLA football team to travel to Oklahoma, as after all, the coaches and support staff of the UCLA Bruins are state employees and would be traveling on state business to play the game in Oklahoma.
For decades Californians have prided themselves on being free spirits and having an anything goes attitude. Those days are over, and modern California has transformed into a draconian “do as we do” state, or else. Ironically, for a state with a growing homeless problem, unaffordable real estate, and a wide gulf of income inequality between the rich and the poor, lawmakers in California believe they need to set everyone else straight. The California Dream of good weather, prosperity, and laid-back attitude has become an Orwellian nightmare where all states are equal, but California believes it is more equal than others.
For now, anyway, it looks like the game in Norman, Oklahoma between UCLA and the University of Oklahoma will likely go on as planned, as the football schedule was set prior to the travel restrictions being in place. But with a travel ban to nine different states, one envisions potential landmines for California’s university sports teams in the future.
From an economic standpoint, this travel ban also has the potential to boomerang on the Golden State. What happens if the other nine states return the favor and ban their state employees from traveling to California? In this potential trade war, California would be the big loser, as there are a heck of a lot more conferences and conventions in a warm weather place like San Diego than, let’s say, a city like Tulsa.
But California is hardly alone in putting college sports games in jeopardy.
In 2016, Albany State (New York) had to cancel a basketball game at the famed Cameron Indoor Stadium against Duke as New York State has implemented similar travel restrictions as California. Frankly, the loss of the game harmed only the Albany State basketball players, as the Albany St. players didn’t get the opportunity to play in a historic arena against one of the premier college teams. Duke, on the other hand, has no problem finding plenty of other teams willing to come to Cameron for a game.
The politicians in Sacramento and Albany, I’m sure, believe they are doing the right thing by taking a moral stand on a civil right. But sometimes what is moral and what is a civil right isn’t always clear cut, as the recent Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission illustrated, where one man’s discrimination against gay weddings is another man’s religious discrimination.
In an era that has become hyper-partisan, where literally many Americans won’t even break bread nor do business with those who they disagree with politically, can we at least call a détente when it comes to sports?
If the people of California and the people of Oklahoma can’t even engage in something as trivial to the national landscape as a football game without politics interfering, what hope do we have as a nation to have a civil discourse to solve the problems of our times?
Matthew Kastel is a 25-year veteran of working as an executive in the world of sports, including professional teams, organizations, and some of the largest vendors in the industry. Matt has also written two novels and teaches and lectures at universities on the business of sports. For more information you can visit his website at thirdstrikeproductions.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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