NCAA Says It Will 'Unequivocally Support' Transgender Student-Athletes as States Pass Bans

Jason Duaine Hahn
·3 min read

Mike Ehrmann/Getty

After several states have restricted or banned transgender students from high school and college athletic programs this year, the NCAA has reaffirmed its support for athletes.

"The NCAA Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports," the NCAA said in a letter published on Monday to its website. "This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition."

The organization's letter comes after lawmakers in states like Arkansas and Mississippi recently passed bills limiting transgender athletes' ability to participate in sports programs.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge proposed a bill in February that bans transgender girls from playing on women's school sports teams in the state. The proposal was met with criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union. It was signed into law by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in March, the AP reported.

Also in March, Mississippi lawmakers voted 81-28 to pass Senate Bill 2536, which will "require any public school, public institution of higher learning or institution of higher learning that is a member of the NCAA, NAIA, MHSAA or MJCCA to designate its athletic teams or sports according to biological sex," CNN reported at the time. Gov. Tate Reeves signed the bill that same month.

Similarly, Tennessee's governor signed an anti-transgender athlete bill in March, requiring student-athletes to compete according to their sex at birth.

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It its letter, the NCAA said it would only hold championship games in locations that could commit to a "safe" environment.

"Our clear expectation as the Association's top governing body is that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect," the organization said.

"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," the NCAA continued. "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. "

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The message was praised by the ACLU for placing pressure on lawmakers for discriminating against people who are transgender.

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"Today the NCAA confirmed it will pull events from states with bills banning trans students from participating in school sports," the group said in a tweet.

"State lawmakers take note: discriminating against trans youth is wrong, against the law, and costly," they added.

According to NBC News, almost 30 states are weighing laws that would forbid transgender students from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identities.