The NCAA, which governs college athletics in the US, backed transgender athletes on Monday and said it will not hold championship events in venues that are not “discrimination-free.”
As Republicans in more than two dozen states target transgender athletes, the NCAA Board of Governors said it “firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student athletes to compete in college sports.”
It said the “more inclusive” policy for transgender athletes, which requires testosterone suppression treatment for transgender women to compete in women’s sports, means that “inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student athletes, including transgender athletes.” , at all levels of sports.”
The board said it would monitor situations involving trans athletes’ participation without specifically naming the states that have banned it or are considering a ban. It did say that the “environment” could influence the locations of championship games.
“In determining where championships will be held, NCAA policy states that only locations should be selected where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination,” the statement said. “We will continue to monitor these situations closely to determine whether NCAA Championships can be held in a manner that is welcoming and respectful to all participants.”
Asked if the statement meant the NCAA would not hold championship games in states that have passed laws restricting transathlete participation, a spokesperson said, “The Board of Directors continues to monitor the situation and has not made any championship decisions.”
Proponents, many of whom have called on sports organizations and companies to take a stand, called the statement a welcome development.
“Dangerous proposals across the country endanger transgender youth,” Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “The harm is real and felt very personally by transgender children who are just trying to live their lives as they really are. The NCAA makes it clear that their board of directors supports transgender athletes, and the council must hold the states responsible for these harmful laws. “
Nearly 30 states are considering legislation that would prohibit transgender students from participating in school sports teams that align with their gender identities, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The measures are specifically intended to bar trans girls from participating.
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Four states — Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Idaho — have enacted bans; a federal judge blocked the Idaho law from going into effect in August. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed two executive orders restricting trans athletes’ participation after vetoing a previous law.
Proponents of the bills say transgender girls have an unfair advantage in sports, but transgender advocates say lawmakers are creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. The Associated Press found that in nearly all states considering a ban, the bill’s sponsors were unaware of cases where trans girls’ participation was causing problems.
Proponents have been waiting for a statement from the NCAA, which withdrew seven championship games from North Carolina in 2016 after Pat McCrory, then governor, signed HB 2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” requiring transgender people to use the bathrooms. matching the gender on their birth certificate.
Last week, Tom Walton, the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, also spoke out in response to bills targeting LGBTQ people in Arkansas, including the Transathlete Act, and a law banning transitional care, such as puberty blockers, for minors. .
“We support Governor Asa Hutchinson’s recent veto against discriminatory policies and implore government, business and community leaders to consider the impact of existing and future policies that restrict fundamental freedoms and do not promote inclusiveness in our communities and economy,” he said. Walton in the statement. .
The legislature ignored Hutchinson’s veto.