In a blow to a growing number of states considering harsh and discriminatory bans on transgender rights, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has publicly come out in support of diversity and inclusion — backing transgender rights and saying that it will no longer hold championship events in locations that aren’t “free of discrimination.”
The NCAA Board of Governors has announced in a statement that it “firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports.”
Jo Yurcaba of NBC News has reported that the group’s “more inclusive” policy for transgender athletes, which requires testosterone suppression treatment for transgender women to compete in women’s sports, sends the signal that “inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport.”
Although the board didn’t specifically target any exact locations, NCAA said, “When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected. We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”
When asked whether the statement meant NCAA wouldn’t hold championship games in states that passed laws limiting trans athletes’ participation, a spokesperson said, “The Board of Governors continues to monitor the situation and has not made a decision regarding championships.”
Because more than 30 U.S. states are currently considering some form of legislation that would impact trans rights or ban trans individuals from participating in sports, LGBTQ rights advocates have praised the announcement from the NCAA — and welcomed similar statements from other groups.
In a statement, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said, “Dangerous proposals around the country are putting transgender young people at risk. The harm is real and is felt very personally by transgender kids just trying to live their lives as who they really are. The NCAA is making it clear that their Board of Governors supports transgender athletes, and the board should hold those states passing these harmful laws accountable.”
Others like Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, told reporters that while the NCAA’s statement was a good start, there is even more than could be done.
“We are grateful to President Emmert and the NCAA for past and present leadership to foster diversity, equity and inclusion in sports; their voice in this space has been important in stopping hateful legislation from taking effect and, in some cases, has helped to reverse discriminatory laws on the books,” David said. “At this time though, we are asking the NCAA to do more and to use the power of their visibility to reaffirm and support transgender and nonbinary athletes across the nation.”
CeCé Telfer, a transgender athlete and advocate, agrees. “As a trans athlete, I’m not a threat to women’s sports because I am a woman,” Telfer said in a press conference.” There’s no advantage that I have. The joy and beauty of finally embracing myself and being in a sport that I love and being on that line with the women I’m supposed to be with, it’s enlightening. And it has prevented me, being an athlete, from many things, from many distractions, from harming myself. Athletics is a way for people to get out and away from negativity. I really think the NCAA can do more, and that’s all that we’re asking.”