More than 500 Student Athletes At Universities Across the Nation Call On NCAA To Stand Against Discrimination
(March 10, 2021 – New York, NY) — Today, more than 500 National Collegiate Athletic Association student athletes sent a letter to the NCAA Board of Governors calling for the institution to uphold its nondiscrimination policy and publicly refuse to host championships in states with bans against trans athletes. Sports Illustrated broke the story today of the student-athletes’ demand to the NCAA.
Student signatories are athletes from college and university athletics from every region in the U.S., representing a variety of sports including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s football, track and field, rowing, swimming, diving, and gymnastics. The letter cites the 2016 NCAA non-discrimination policy following the institution’s decision to move all championship games out of North Carolina in response to House Bill 2, which prohibited some transgender people from using public restrooms according to their gender identity. The NCAA also just announced a focus on social justice and inclusion in its March Madness basketball tournament, naming courts “Unity and Equality.” The NCAA’s silence on discrimination against trans athletes is at odds with that mission.
The athletes are demanding that the NCAA stand by its policies and refuse to bid for or host events in states that pass discriminatory bans on trans girls and women participating in school sports. More than 25 bills prohibiting trans participation in school sports—sometimes with criminal penalties for athletes as young as 12—have been proposed in states across the country. While many of the bills are proposed in the name of “protecting women’s sports,” trans inclusion is no threat to women’s sports. Trans athletes have been participating for years and lawmakers recently acknowledged they could not cite a single instance of an issue in their states. Studies have shown that participation in girls’ sports is stronger in states with trans-inclusive policies.
“All student-athletes should be safe and protected when competing in NCAA championships,” said Aliya Schenck and Alana Bojar, Track & Field athletes at Washington University in St. Louis and Athlete Ally Campus Chapter Co-Presidents who spearheaded the letter. “Your silence on this issue is only allowing more states to pass these bills. We urge you to act now and make a strong statement against these bills, saying that the NCAA will not host championships in states that openly discriminate against LGBTQI+ athletes.”
“All of the anti-trans legislation sweeping the country is in direct violation of the NCAA’s 2016 nondiscrimination policy for championship events,” Anne Lieberman, Director of Policy and Programs for Athlete Ally. “Though the NCAA has continued to monitor the bills and has spoken out in support of trans athletes, the time is now for the NCAA to listen to hundreds of student athletes calling on them to clearly and unequivocally put the health and safety of all student-athletes first and condemn these horrific bills.”
“Sports are for everyone, and trans people pose no threat to sports participation or anywhere else,” said Serena Sonoma, GLAAD Communications Coordinator and Regional Media Lead, U.S. South. “The NCAA should follow its own guidance issued to North Carolina years ago, and insist that all states hosting events be inclusive of all who want to participate. The message should be clear and unmistakable: Bans are wrong and trans people belong, in sports and everywhere in the world.”
The global athletic community including Billie Jean King, Jason Collins and Megan Rapinoe, student athletes, and advocacy organizations have also been calling on the NCAA to enforce its policy of inclusion since Idaho’s trans athlete ban House Bill 500 passed last year. So far this year, South Dakota and Mississippi have passed bans as well and could be signed into law.
About Athlete Ally: Athlete Ally believes sport will change the world when it welcomes and empowers all people. As a leading national nonprofit working at the intersection of sport and LGBTQI+ equality, Athlete Ally works to end the structural and systemic oppression that isolates, excludes and endangers LGBTQI+ people in sport. We educate individuals and institutions to understand obstacles to inclusion for LGBTQI+ people and how they can build an inclusive culture within their athletic communities. We work to ensure sport governing bodies, teams and leagues adopt policies that reflect the diversity of their constituents. We incubate athlete activism to advance LGBTQI+ equality in and through sport. For more information, visit https://www.athleteally.org/ or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.