Protest against N.C. discrimination is no match for baseball

Some kids who played baseball in Minnesota could have learned a valuable real-life lesson this month: Standing up for values requires personal sacrifice.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s ban on non-essential travel to North Carolina because of that state’s legislation limiting official protections for gays, lesbians, and transgender people was, from the start, more theater than substance. The governor’s office either couldn’t or wouldn’t reveal how much travel state employees are required to make to North Carolina.

And it was always unlikely to have any real impact on North Carolina’s economy. And nobody expected North Caroline to cower in the face of Minnesota’s stern look. It was merely a statement of Minnesota’s values in opposition to discrimination. Period.

“That law blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to grant protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women and men. It violates the values and the laws of our great state. In my view, it is destructive to the progress we have made to provide equal rights and protections to our LGBT community,” Gov. Dayton said in his letter announcing the travel ban.

Agree or disagree (Republicans disagreed, sending a letter of support to North Carolina lawmakers), it’s a principled stand.

Usually such stands survive the first puff of wind against them.

That breeze came from baseball players.

Gov. Dayton declared the travel ban would remain in place “until the North Carolina Governor and state Legislature repeal the discriminatory law they enacted.”

“While we understand that some players may be disappointed, no sports team from any of our colleges or universities will participate in tournaments in North Carolina this spring,” MnSCU communications director Doug Anderson told the Pioneer Press on Tuesday, after MnSCU officials stood behind Dayton’s ban.

“I support the opposition to the laws that were passed there,” Century College coach Dwight Kotila told the paper. It’s not human what they’re doing. On the other hand, I have to look out for my student-athletes, too. Is this fair for them to be used to make a statement?”

After a day, the ban fell.

The Minnesota State College and University System yesterday dropped the ban after baseball coaches complained that it could prevent the fellas from participating in baseball tournaments in North Carolina.

MnSCU’s statement said the ban isn’t needed now:

On April 2, citing opposition to discriminatory legislation passed in North Carolina, Governor Dayton directed that all employees of Minnesota state agencies refrain from nonessential business travel to the state. On May 2, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities presidents implemented a similar travel ban for our state colleges and universities. On May 4, the U.S. Justice Department notified North Carolina that the legislation in question, House Bill 2, violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and ordered the state to remedy the violation by not enforcing the law.

In light of the intervention from the U.S. Justice Department, the presidents of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are confident that the deplorable discrimination embedded in North Carolina’s legislation is being addressed. Therefore, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities have lifted their ban on travel to North Carolina.

The federal government notified North Carolina that the law violates civil rights, giving the state until Monday to fix it.

Whether North Carolina will is unclear but MnSCU has decided it’s a good time to remove whatever little pressure it exerted on the state.

Why not wait until the law falls?

Baseball.

The Division II baseball World Series will be held May 28-June 4 in Cary, North Carolina. St. Cloud State has a shot at being in it.

St. Cloud Technical & Community College, a Division III school is ranked eighth in the nation and could be in the Division III baseball World Series in Kinston, North Carolina.

“It would have been very unfortunate for whatever group of seniors this might have affected,” St. Cloud State baseball coach Pat Dolan tells the St. Cloud Times.

“I told the guys afterwards that losing games and facing tough situations is why athletes go on and are successful in life,” he said. “There’s a lot of adversity that you’re going to go through. This gets you prepared for the real world.”

Having earlier declared the ban would stick until the law was repealed, the governor is now considering dropping the ban too, according to a spokesman.

In the real world, sports carries a big stick.

More baseball: Now Starting for the Sonoma Stompers: We picked Sean Conroy off a spreadsheet. We didn’t realize he’d be the first openly gay player in pro baseball history (Slate).

  • kevins

    Principles is principles, eh?

  • wjc

    “If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?”

    paraphrased from “Hamilton”

    • crystals

      High five to you, fellow Hamilton addict.

  • Ben Chorn
    • Gary F

      ” I guess some people always need something to be upset about,”

      Yep, the outrage machine is always running on BOTH sides of the political spectrum.

  • Mike Worcester

    Maybe all the Minn teams should sew rainbow patches onto their uniforms for when they play there 🙂

  • Mike

    The whole thing was ridiculous grandstanding from the start. Minnesota is one state among 50, not some separate country as many people here seem to want to believe. Residents of Minnesota and North Carolina are citizens of the same country. Agree or disagree with these laws (I disagree, for the record), this matter is most appropriately dealt with at the federal level. Besides, these boycotts often end up hurting people they’re supposed to help, in this case the GLBT residents of North Carolina. How is making the economy worse supposed to help them?

    • Postal Customer

      Because as we’ve discussed countless times, sometimes social change has to be effected in the form of inconvenience.

  • Sorglund

    The author is making an unfair comparison. The issue is not that baseball is sooo important. It is that college baseball has absolutely nothing to do with the North Carolina House Bill 2. It’s fine if the Governor and the MNSCU issued an official Press Release opposing the policies of another state. It is insulting, unfair and borderline discriminatory to limit only state universities and college students from attending their own championship sporting events while ignoring the other public university system and proclaiming a ‘championship day’ for the University of St Thomas a Catholic institution that does not support transgender rights in lieu of the Catholic Catechism and their adherence.

    • Neither does rock music, in that regard.

      And yet, rock stars are canceling shows.

      It does have something to do with the house bill as the goal of those sorts of protests is to inflict some sort of pain on North Carolina to increase pressure.

      Football didn’t have anything to do with the Arizona “show me your papers law,” but that didn’t stop the NFL from hinting strongly that there’d be an economic penalty to pay.

      In matters of politics and economics, everything has to do with everything.

      • Sorglund

        That definitely explains it, we just have to keep moving the goalposts. The World in Rose Colored Glasses by MPR. Rather than reaching for an explanation that suggests that “the public cares more about sports”, let’s be honest and identify the decision to retract the ban on student travel was the correction of a wrong handed policy decision. Is that really so hard.

        As the Duluth News Tribune Editorial Board put it succinctly:
        “Political pawns. Yes, this is a civil rights issue, too, and an important one. But no matter how anyone feels about who uses which bathrooms, denying college athletes their dream moment, the chance to play for a national title, doesn’t send a message about how right or wrong North Carolina’s new law may be; it just unfairly and unjustly penalizes innocents.”

        • No, it’s not hard if you believe that the policy decision to observe Dayton’s ban was wrong. Nobody’s stopping you from saying that, are they?

          What I’m saying is if you’re going to make a stand based on principles and talk a tough game, don’t hide behind the Justice Department when you decide it’s inconvenient for the baseball teams. Just say, “we want to play baseball in North Carolina so to hell with what we said before.”

          Personally, I think the easiest way around this was simply to declare baseball is essential.

  • Ryan Johnson

    I’d rather see bottom up refusal to go from the players themselves then top down refusal from MNSCU. That or the NCAA relocating the championships.

  • Postal Customer

    Step back and look at the big picture. Situations like this arise when lawmakers make laws that intentionally divide people. That is the root of this issue.

    Now, I’d rather see MNSCU wait it out, though I don’t play college baseball, so it’s no loss to me either way — therefore my perspective isn’t very informed.

  • lindblomeagles

    Some sports execs experienced similar problems during the integration of football and baseball all those years ago. NFL teams, for example, would sign and start African Americans to play QB during the 1960s and 1970s when, out of nowhere, fans and other NFL owners would complain just loud enough to those NFL teams on the forefront of integration that owners felt they had no choice but comply with discrimination. The former founder and owner of the Washington NFL team, specifically and notoriously, held some NFL owners hostage with his bigoted views of the African American Football Player. As a result, Washington was the LAST NFL team to stubbornly integrate its roster. America might say it doesn’t have a discriminatory bone in its body, but those that do wish to discriminate in American History have often had enough power to enforce said discrimination.