Marist Justified in Pursuing NCAA Tournament

The NCAA has pulled all tournament games from North Carolina over the passage of House Bill 2 (HB2), a state law that requires all people to use all school and government restrooms based on their biological gender as written on their birth certificate.

Coincidentally, this occurs only weeks after Marist College agreed to send its basketball team to Duke University to compete in an NCAA tournament. What a PR disaster this has turned out to be.

North Carolina has suffered immensely from the controversial law. Politics aside, it has witnessed the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Maroon 5 refuse to play concerts, while various companies, such as Google and Apple, are withholding their earnings from North Carolina—netting the Tar Heel State an estimated $500 million loss.

In the grand scheme of things, Marist’s participation in the tournament is relatively menial in comparison to North Carolina’s net losses. However, on a local scale, all eyes have been on Marist’s public affairs department; and they’ve certainly been keeping busy.

Marist’s controversy came into play after The State University of New York at Albany was forced out of the tournament as a result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to ban publicly funded travel to North Carolina. This is important to realize; Governor Cuomo mandated that Albany withdraw from the tournament, the University did not willingly reject the opportunity to play. In turn, Marist, a private institution, leaped at the opportunity to take Albany’s spot.

In an interview with the Poughkeepsie Journal, Marist spokesman Greg Cannon claimed that sending the team “does not diminish in any way our support for the LGBT community (…) It also doesn’t equate to a show of support for this regressive law.” And he’s absolutely right.

For Marist, the benefits of playing against a team like Duke are unequivocal. The opportunity is rare for a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) school. Both the team and college can excel from both an experience on the national stage and the publicity which with it comes. So why let any social-oriented law get in the way of institutional success?

Understandably, the LGBTQ community is upset with the HB2 law, and who cam blame them? They feel disregarded, embarrassed, and disappointed—all warranted feelings toward the North Carolina State Government. Luckily, the Marist community’s rights are not being infringed upon. Marist, along with New York State, have long been implementing progressive policies to cater toward the LGBTQ community. Marist has a diversity council, of which there is a LGBTQ Sub-committee. Marist proudly promotes the Marist Ally Network, an organization where students and faculty alike work to “establish an identifiable network of persons who can provide support, information, and a safe place for LGBTQ persons”. They typically hold ‘ally network training’ once a semester to provide a “welcoming environment” for the LGBTQ community. So while it is justifiable to be upset at the passage of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, there is no reason to take further frustration out on Marist for simply participating in the tournament.

It is important to keep in mind that Duke, a private university, is not bound to North Carolina’s House Bill 2, nor is Marist were they to participate. In fact, Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has condemned it, calling it “an embarrassing bill.” Furthermore, Public Policy Polling finds that only 36% of North Carolina voters support the bill. Are the other 64% subject to any direct judgment because they choose to still live and work there? Are the thousands of people who vacationed to the Outer Banks this summer labeled bigoted conformists?

Playing basketball in a state with a controversial law is in no way advocating for said law. It’s that simple. Discussion regarding legislation must remain directed toward the government, and away from unaffected private schools that just want to play basketball.

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