Athletes, advocates call on NCAA to pull competition from states with anti-trans bills
As several states continue to weigh anti-transgender legislation in athletic competitions, a group of athletes, allies and advocates called on the NCAA to withdraw all athletic competition from states were such legislation is being considered.
In a press conference Friday, head coach of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx Cheryl Reeve, Lynx forward Napheesa Collier, Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David, former NCAA champion and transgender athlete CeCé Telfer and others highlighted the benefits of transgender inclusion in sports and denounced efforts to discriminate against trans athletes.
"This is a moment of national crisis where the rights and very existence of transgender young people are under attack," David said. "This year, state legislative sessions mark the highest number of anti-transgender bills in history, more than 50, which target the ability of transgender athletes to participate in sports."
Before the men's and women's basketball championships from last weekend, NCAA president Mark Emmert sent a letter to David that spoke out against anti-transgender legislation in sports, but stopped short of stating clear measures against states that are considering or have passed restrictive legislation.
"The NCAA is concerned with the numerous bills that have been filed across our country related to sport participation," Emmert wrote in the letter. "As we have previously stated in situations such as Idaho’s House Bill 500 and its resulting law, this legislation is harmful to transgender student-athletes and conflicts with the NCAA’s core values of inclusivity, respect and the equitable treatment of all individuals."
Emmert's letter was in response to one David wrote the NCAA Board of Governors raising concerns about the spate of anti-transgender bills being proposed across the country.
Emmert added in his response that the NCAA Board of Governors requires championship sites to outline how they will create an environment that is free of discrimination.
The advocates, however, said they felt there was more work to be done.
"As a trans athlete, I'm not a threat to women's sports because I am a woman," said Telfer, who became the first openly transgender woman to win an NCAA championship in 2019, in 400 meter hurdles.
"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."
Last month, 545 current NCAA athletes signed a letter to Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors asking the organization to reaffirm its nondiscriminatory policies and refuse to host championship events in states where transgender athletes are banned from competition.
The state legislative director and senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign Cathryn Oakley said that the organization is tracking 56 anti-transgender legislation bills focused on sports across more than 30 states.
One of the common arguments in favor of the anti-trans sports bills is that they are being introduced to protect women's sports. Advocates in the press conference resoundingly rejected that notion and stressed that transgender athletes are not threats to the competitions or their fellow athletes.
"What's really harming women's sports is an overall lack of investment in resources for athletes, opportunities to coach in the profession, lack of pay or severe pay disparities, those are the true threats to women's sports," Reeve said. "This starts from scholastic competition all the way through the WNBA and professional sports.
"The notion that the motivation of transgender athletes is to gain scholarships or score a competitive advantage is simply a false narrative. This diminishes the athlete overall."