Basketball team crossed the line

Dear Editor,

On Aug. 25, the Vermont women’s basketball team canceled its road game against University of North Carolina in December, citing North Carolina’s HB2 law, or the Charlotte bathroom bill, which defines discrimination as occurring on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap or biological sex — but not sexual orientation.

In other words, pretty much the standing protections of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

It must have been unconscionable for athletic director Jeff Schulman to have allowed UVM athletes into the veritable knuckle-dragging state of North Carolina. One would have thought the basketball team was playing in the North Carolina statehouse.

But they wouldn’t have been, of course. Schulman’s effective boycott of the entire state of North Carolina would seem to the casual observer an obvious overextension of his duties and responsibilities. He is the athletic director; not the director of appropriate statecraft.

But Schulman nonetheless decided that his political predilections, which are not — one assumes — universally held, should leave the students of UNC, who likely had nothing to do with North Carolina’s HB2 law, bereft of what would have been an enjoyable game.

Not to mention the fact that UNC would have given us $17,500, with meals and hotel rooms for the athletes. Way to go.

It should go without saying: Politics and sports are not meant to be mixed. Anyone who has ever watched an ESPN commentator clumsily wax philosophical on matters of state and law knows how cringe-inducing the experience can be.

Similarly, the UVM athletic department should withhold its judgment on the policies of states in whose boundaries they merely play basketball. Their decision to cancel their planned game in December was supremely unsportsmanlike.

Indeed, the entire purpose of sports is to foster worthy competition that proves transcendental over petty politics. Why do you think we compete against North Korea in the Olympics? And why was Islam el Shelhalby, the Egyptian Olympic judo fighter, so severely criticized for refusing to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent, Or Sasson?

Well, it was representative of extremely poor sportsmanship to allow politics to enter the ring. No doubt, UVM committed a similar offense in refusing to even see their competitors in North Carolina. We should feel a due sense of shame.


Joseph Brown

Class of 2016