Story at a glance

  • Several states are enacting legislation to restrict the rights of transgender Americans to participate in sports.
  • Amid backlash from the LGBTQ+ community, several organizations are pulling their business from those states.
  • Now, the NCAA is saying that championships may not be held in states that are not “free of discrimination” towards transgender athletes.

When lawmakers began pushing bills banning transgender athletes from sports in several states, college athletes were taken by surprise — the NCAA has a decade-old policy permitting transgender athletes to participate in sports on the college level under certain requirements. 

After several states enacted these bans, the NCAA issued a statement supporting the participation of transgender athletes in sports, saying that its championships will only be held in locations that are "safe, healthy and free of discrimination."


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"Inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport. Our clear expectation as the Association’s top governing body is that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect. We are committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them," said the organization, noting that it follows the participation policies of both the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

While the organization did not explicitly say it would pull out of states like Georgia — where the MLB cost the state millions in lost revenue after moving the All Star Game due to the recent passing of a law restricting voting rights in the state — the statement came after 545 college athletes signed an open letter calling on the NCAA to refuse to host championships in states with bans against transgender athletes. 

"You have been silent in the face of hateful legislation in states that are slated to host championships, even though those states are close to passing anti-transgender legislation," said the letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors. 


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The current NCAA policy, enacted in 2011, specifically addresses the use of banned substances, including testosterone, providing for a medical exception review. While female athletes are permitted on men's teams, mixed teams (which have one or more players of a different gender) are ineligible for women's NCAA championships. Transgender athletes who are not taking testosterone or hormone treatments related to a gender transition may not compete on a women's team. 

“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, 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.”  


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Published on Apr 13, 2021