Cuomo’s existing travel ban prohibits swimmers from lodging in North Carolina for national competition

Geneseo Blue Wave (pictured above) will travel and lodge in Virginia this weekend for the NCAA Division III championship. They will commute an hour to North Carolina to work around New York Gov. Cuomo’s travel ban (Annalee Bainnson/Staff Photographer).

The swimming and diving team’s 10 qualifying athletes for the NCAA Division III championships to be held in Greensboro, NC on March 20-23 will abide by New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s travel ban to North Carolina, according to the college.

The team is barred from flying into or staying overnight in North Carolina. The qualifying athletes will be staying across state lines in Roanoke, Va., an hour away from the pool, according to Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Gail Glover.

Cuomo signed Executive Order 155 in March 2016 that prohibits all non-essential state-sponsored travel to North Carolina. The order was issued after North Carolina passed a bill that restricted transgender individuals from using bathrooms that coordinate with their gender identity. 

“The members of the swimming and diving teams have been through a lot of adversity the last two years,” head coach Paul Dotterweich said in a statement. “They have proven to be very resilient and I am confident they will do so again.”

Childhood and special education major sophomore Lauren Siegel spoke about her issues with the commute from Virginia to North Carolina.

“Any other sport might go to North Carolina for a two-hour game and come back or that kind of thing. Swimming is different because, unlike other sports, we swim in the morning and we swim that night,” Siegel said. “Being an hour away means that would be an extra two hours of driving and there’s not a ton of time in between.” 

Biology and math double major sophomore Noelle Staso explained how the team found out about the issues with their travels. Staso will be traveling to the championship meet. 

“At first we didn’t really know anything was happening,” Staso said. “We had no idea about the travel ban until recently.”

According to The Livingston County News, New York State Senator Patrick Gallivan held a news conference on Thursday March 7 with Senators Robert Ortt and Daphne Jordan and Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes. They were the ones who called upon Cuomo to rescind the order to allow the athletes to travel.

“When we went to practice earlier this week, I think it was Monday or Tuesday, our coach had told us about the ban,” Staso said. “That’s when he came up with the idea of a GoFundMe.”

The GoFundMe was posted by alumnus Clinton Sugnet to raise money for the students to stay in North Carolina. The page aimed to raise $4,000 in donations and met their goal in 11 hours. The page currently has raised $7,305 from 99 people in the last eight days. 

“The news we just received is that we are still state sponsored and we are not allowed to use any money that the alumni raised on our own on the GoFundMe page,” Staso said. “So it’s now official that we can’t do anything with the money in North Carolina.”

Cuomo’s office said on Thursday March 7 that the team will have to stay outside of North Carolina despite the money raised by the GoFundMe page in order to comply with the travel restrictions outlined in the travel ban, according to Democrat and Chronicle. Those who donated to the GoFundMe may request a refund, and remaining funds will be donated to the swim team.

Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s senior adviser, said in an interview with Gannett’s Albany bureau that “the limited exception is that the team gets to travel there, but not stay in North Carolina and stay in a bordering state instead. The issue is not just tax dollars, but the travel itself.”

Travel costs are covered when teams are participating in championship events, according to the NCAA. After Cuomo’s bill became a law in 2016, the NCAA implemented a similar sanction for championships in North Carolina. 

Along with the 10 qualifying athletes from Geneseo, there are two swimmers from SUNY Brockport and one from SUNY Cortland who will also be traveling to the championship. 

Brockport issued a statement that reads, “while it will be logistically challenging, we have created a solution to allow our student-athletes to compete in their sport’s national championship. There is no place for discrimination in any form.”