The NCAA faced blowback Tuesday over its statement upholding its support for transgender participation in women’s athletics as critics accused the collegiate sports authority of waging “war on female athletes.”
The reaction came after the NCAA Board of Governors weighed in Monday on state bills barring biological males from competing in women’s scholastic sports, warning that only locations that are “safe, healthy and free of discrimination” will be allowed to host championships.
Jon Schweppe, American Principles Project director of policy and government affairs, denounced the statement as “a perfect example of woke virtue-signaling.”
“But here’s the truth: yesterday, the NCAA re-declared war on female athletes,” he said. “They once again committed to destroying a fair playing field for women by allowing biological males to compete against them, undermining decades of progress since the passage of Title IX. There is nothing ‘welcoming’ or ‘respectful’ about it.”
The NCAA cited its policy allowing male-to-female athletes to play on women’s teams after undergoing one year of testosterone-suppression treatment, calling it a “more inclusive path for transgender participation in college sports.”
“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,” said the NCAA statement. “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.”
The ACLU cheered the NCAA, saying it “confirmed it will pull events from states with bills banning trans students from participating in school sports,” while Mr. Schweppe said the statement left some wiggle room.
“So we ask the NCAA: Do you plan to punish states for protecting women’s sports?” he asked. “Will you place the agenda of the woke far left above the rights of female athletes? Those athletes deserve a clear answer.”
The NCAA reentered the fray after foes of the state bills, led by the ACLU and Athlete Ally, urged the NCAA to take a stand against states that approve such legislation, calling it discriminatory and unlawful.
“The NCAA Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports,” the statement said. “This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition.
This year, governors in three states — Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee — have signed Fairness in Women’s Sports bills that apply to both K-12 and collegiate sports, following Idaho, which became the first state to do so in 2020.
At least three other states — Kansas, South Dakota and West Virginia — have passed Save Women’s Sports bills in both houses. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem vetoed the bill but then issued an executive order barring transgender athletes from competing against girls in K-12 sports.
The Montana House on Monday sent a women’s sports bill to conference committee after rejecting an amendment by the state Senate that would have voided the bill if the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a letter of impending enforcement.
Penny Nance, Concerned Women for America president, accused the NCAA of being “driven by politics, not science or safety, in promoting transathletes in women’s sports.”
“The Board of Governors clearly has no regard for real fairness for female student-athletes, only woke politics,” said Ms. Nance.
Anne Lieberman, Athlete Ally director of policy and programs, said that the LGBTQ advocacy group “welcomes this statement of support from the NCAA, and hopes to see direct action in response to transgender athlete bans that have been introduced in at least 30 states this legislative session — many in states where the NCAA is slated to host championships.”
Save Women’s Sports argued that reducing testosterone levels is not enough. Critics of the NCAA policy have cited male advantages such as bone length and density, oxygen-carrying capacity, height and muscle mass.
“It doesn’t take a scientist or doctor to know that if a male athlete lowers their testosterone level, it does not make them a female athlete,” tweeted the group. “Women are not a hormone level.”
Autumn Leva, Family Policy Alliance vice president of strategy, urged states to “ignore this intimidation tactic as yet another NCAA power grab.”
“Instead, elected officials should proudly stand behind female athletes who represent their states in high-level competition,” Ms. Leva said. “And, states should proudly boast about their venues where female athletes can enjoy true and fair competition.”