Sports

The NIT and NCAA Women’s Tournament should consider boycotting Texas after governor lifts mask mandate

Gov. Greg Abbott decided masks were a bridge too far toward public safety.

Gov. Greg Abbott decided masks were a bridge too far toward public safety.
Image: Getty Images

Elections matter.

That statement should hit home for millions of Texans who watched Ted Cruz’s failed attempt to desert them in their time of need, and as their governor has decided that he doesn’t care if they get sick or die.

Since Greg Abbott is willing to risk the health and safety of millions of his own citizens, the NIT and Women’s NCAA Tournament should consider boycotting the state, as both tournaments are scheduled to be held in Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and San Antonio, respectively.

This year’s NIT is scaling back from the normal 32-team format to only 16 teams due to COVID-19, and games will take place at the Comerica Center and UNT Coliseum on North Texas’ campus. Madison Square Garden won’t be in play as the usual location for the semifinals and championship game. All teams that participate will be at-large sections this year due to the limited field, meaning that Duke and Kentucky will probably get an invite. Ironically, Texas is the reigning champ of the tournament, since the 2020 edition was canceled.

On the women’s side, San Antonio will serve as their bubble in the same way that Indianapolis will be for the men. The Alamodome, Bill Greehey Arena, Frank Erwin Center, University Events Center, and the Convocation Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio will serve as the venues for their games.

In all, 80 teams are scheduled to play basketball in a state that’s “OPEN 100%” without a mandated mask rule, all because the highest elected government official decided he was over putting a mask on his face.

Republicans are stupid.

With both tournaments only a few weeks away from starting, it puts the NCAA in a tough logistical spot, even if they wanted to boycott Texas. Finding a replacement location seems like too daunting of a task this late in the game. However, the threat of a boycott could make Abbott reconsider his decision, given the financial implications that could impact the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio hospitality industries. And it’s not like a precedent hasn’t already been set. Remember the bathroom bill?

In April of 2017, the NCAA lifted its ban against the state of North Carolina as it refused to hold championship events there after a law was passed that removed anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, requiring the latter to use bathrooms in public facilities that aligned with their sex at birth. The state’s legislature and governor repealed it, as the state was supposed to host first and second-round NCAA tournament games in 2017. Those games wound up moving to South Carolina.

Because of that, Duke fans will tell you that it played a part in them losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament that year -they were a No. 2 seed that originally was supposed to play in their home state of North Carolina. But due to moving the games to South Carolina, they fell to No. 7 seed South Carolina, who enjoyed the pseudo home-court advantage that the Blue Devils were supposed to have. However, in the end, it wasn’t a fluke, as South Carolina made it to the Final Four that season

“By repealing the mandate, the government is putting everyone at risk, and food service workers are sadly at the front lines in facing potential hostility from folks who will refuse to respect our mask policy,” Anne Ng of Bakery Lorraine in San Antonio, told the Texas Tribune this week. Bakery Lorraine has decided to keep mask requirements in place for staff and customers. “We don’t deserve that.”

It’s going to be hard to safely feed 80 teams in a state that happens to be the second-most-populous in the country when people in the food industry don’t have to wear masks. According to the Washington Post, at least 6,000 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in Texas this week, with more than 1,700 of them being placed in intensive care units.

While rare, we’ve seen the NCAA make the right decision before, as they did with banning events in North Carolina. The same action, or at least the threat of it, needs to happen right now with Texas. Lives are literally at stake. And since a lot of this has to do with the revenue that those tournaments could generate for the NCAA, it’s beyond fair to ask if it’s worth the potential cost of life, given that COVID-19 has killed over 500,000 Americans.

The governing body of collegiate sports has a serious decision to make, and the ball is in their court.

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