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California: Be like us, or we won't play ball with you

California head football coach Justin Wilcox waves at the end of a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. Cal opens the football season at North Carolina.
California head football coach Justin Wilcox waves at the end of a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. Cal opens the football season at North Carolina.
Eric Risberg, AP

California might be the most troubled state in the country, with exorbitant taxes, inadequate water resources, pollution, overcrowding, crime and serious economic issues. And yet somehow the state has the time and will to tell other states how to govern themselves.

California wants to be America’s moral arbiter.

If you follow the news, you know that California’s attorney general has banned state employees from traveling to eight states (and counting) because they passed LGBT-related laws that don’t agree with California’s views.

Last week, Xavier Becerra, the California AG, said the state won’t pay its employees’ travel expenses for business trips to Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota and Texas. This follows the announcement in January that travel was banned to Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Wait, why is this on the sports page, you’re wondering?


Do you see where this is headed? This means California’s college and university athletic teams cannot play games in those eight states, including bowl games and possibly national championships. This means no recruiting in those states.

Good luck finding a downside here for non-California coaches and their teams.

Cal opens the football season at North Carolina. UCLA plays at Tennessee and Fresno State at Alabama.

The ban applies to contracts that were signed after Jan. 1. Since most games are arranged years ahead, the ban reportedly won’t affect games for a while. The Mercury News reported that Cal withdrew from negotiations for home-and-home basketball games. Meanwhile, recruiting trips would be affected immediately.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that there will be exemptions on the travel ban, but it does apply to state schools. The newspaper reported that the AG’s office didn’t say if it applied to athletic teams and is reviewing that issue. Don’t be surprised if principles are tossed aside when it comes to something as vital and important as football and basketball games.

For the record, there are seven bowl games in Texas, two in Tennessee and three in Alabama. Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee will all be host sites for the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament.

“Our country has made great strides in dismantling prejudicial laws that have deprived too many of our fellow Americans of their precious rights,” Becerra said. “Sadly, that is not the case in all parts of our nation, even in the 21st Century.”

(A side note: California is among those states that have challenged President Trump’s travel ban to Muslim countries, which could hardly be described as LGBT friendly, to say nothing of the threat of terrorism.)

This is not the first time California has butted into the business of other states. In 2010, several California cities, including Los Angeles, voted to boycott Arizona because the state enacted anti-immigration law. The boycott faded away and amounted to nothing but talk, perhaps because Arizona threatened to cut off the water it was providing the state.

Perhaps you’re wondering: What does my state have to do to make the banned list? Well, here’s what the banned states did. Alabama passed a law that allows faith-based adoption and foster agencies not to place children with gay couples. South Dakota and Texas passed similar laws. Tennessee allows therapists to deny treatment to LGBT patients because of religious beliefs. Mississippi was banned because it passed a law that allows businesses and religious groups, as well as individuals, to deny services based on their religious beliefs.

Kentucky made the banned list because it passed a law that prevents schools from punishing students for wearing or expressing religious messages. Kansas passed a law that allows campus religious groups to require its members to adhere to their beliefs.

At first North Carolina made the banned list because of its so-called “bathroom” bill, which required people to use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate. The state repealed parts of that law, but made California’s banned list because of a law that prohibits local governments from passing nondiscrimination law for gender identity and sexual orientation.

By now, California’s coaches must be pacing their multi-million dollar football complexes. How are they going to compete if they can’t recruit in, among other states, Texas, a talent gold mine? Meanwhile, coaches from the banned states are free to mine football recruits in California, the richest recruiting ground in the country. How are they going to schedule premier teams such as Alabama, Texas and Tennessee if they can’t make it a home-and-home arrangement? And what will the Pac-12 do if, say, Utah or Arizona, winds up on the banned list?

You might reasonably wonder who is really being punished here.