HRC President to NCAA: time to pull tournaments in states that discriminate against trans athletes

The president of the Human Rights Campaign is asking the NCAA president and governing board to pull tournaments from states that have passed laws and executive orders barring transgender women from women’s sports.

As Policy Watch has reported, a bill is still in play in North Carolina that could do just that. As HRC President Alphonso David points out in his letter, similar bills have already passed into law in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. A ban is in place in South Dakota by executive order.

NCAA and pro athletes have called for the NCAA to take the step, to which it has not yet explicitly committed. The NCAA has a policy that allows for the inclusion of transgender athletes and has said that it will work to be sure transgender athletes are safe from discrimination in states where it operates events. But tournaments are scheduled for Alabama and Tennessee in less than three weeks.

“This is a national crisis, and one that necessitates united action, including from the NCAA,” David wrote. “In sanctioning states that enact blatantly discriminatory laws in violation of NCAA policy, the NCAA will not only be standing on the right side of history, it will also be putting itself squarely in line with the overwhelming majority of the American people. A poll released on April 16 made clear that the vast majority of Americans, including a majority of Americans in all political parties, oppose legislation limiting the rights of transgender student athletes.”

Read David’s full letter below:

Dear President Emmert & NCAA Governance,

Thank you for your response to my March letter. I am also grateful for your subsequent statement condemning anti-trans sports legislation and committing to tournament host sites that are “safe, healthy, and free of discrimination,” but we need the NCAA to turn that commitment into action to achieve impact for athletes. According to our analysis and after hearing from transgender athletes across the country and in these states, the anti-transgender legislation being passed and enacted do create an unsafe, unhealthy, and discriminatory environment for transgender athletes. This merits and necessitates action from the NCAA to withdraw championship events from the states that have already enacted such legislation, and make clear that states that enact them in the future will face the same consequences.

In Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Dakota there are now overtly discriminatory laws or, in the case of South Dakota, executive orders, banning transgender athletes from participating in sports. Similar bills are currently awaiting signature or veto by governors in Montana and West Virginia, and could soon be enacted into law. With NCAA tournaments scheduled to take place in Alabama and Tennessee in less than three weeks, the time for concrete actions is now.

As I wrote to you last time, the number of anti-LGBTQ bills we are seeing in state legislatures across the country is unprecedented. And sadly, an unprecedented number are likely to become law. 2021 is poised to surpass 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history. So far in 2021, 11 anti-LGBTQ bills have already been enacted, and another nine are already on governors’ desks awaiting signature. If these bills are enacted into law, it would mean that states will have enacted more anti-LGBTQ laws this year than in the last three years combined.

This is a national crisis, and one that necessitates united action, including from the NCAA. In sanctioning states that enact blatantly discriminatory laws in violation of NCAA policy, the NCAA will not only be standing on the right side of history, it will also be putting itself squarely in line with the overwhelming majority of the American people. A poll released on April 16 made clear that the vast majority of Americans, including a majority of Americans in all political parties, oppose legislation limiting the rights of transgender student athletes.

We appreciate the NCAA’s past and present leadership, including its most recent statements. But there is more that must be done because the lives of young LGBTQ people are on the line.

And to be clear, people are already dying. These bills are further fueling the stigma that is driving a wave of anti-trans violence devastating our community. So far in 2021, we are on track to more than double the number of trans and gender non-conforming people killed in 2020, which was already the deadliest year on record.

With the NCAA’s commitment to safety, how can holding tournaments in these states possibly keep student-athletes safe? The only way forward to protect the people the NCAA works so hard to serve is by sanctioning the states fueling hate and violence against our community.

Thank you again for continuing to be in dialogue with me about this issue. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions. My staff and I stand ready to assist with any information and to support the work ahead.

Alphonso David

President of the Human Rights Campaign

He/Him/His

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