NCAA transgender policy targeted by Republican governors; Lombardo signs letter

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Gov. Joe Lombardo and eight other Republican governors are appealing to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s sense of “basic fairness,” asking the organization to rewrite its Transgender Student Athlete Policy.

It’s the second time Lombardo has publicly weighed in on the topic. He was one of 25 Republican governors who signed a letter in May objecting to Biden administration threats to withhold funding for states that don’t enforce gender equity in sports.

The nine governors who signed the new letter say the NCAA is avoiding the question of fairness, citing a National Institutes for Health report that “there is on average a 10% difference between the top performing males and females in athletic competition.”

The governors said they are “the last line of defense for protecting fairness in women’s and girls’ sports” because the federal government won’t act.

“While that difference may vary depending on the specific sport in question, the gap is meaningful across all athletic competitions. The reason why is simple: biological men are generally taller, faster, stronger, and have more testosterone than biological women. This puts women, through no fault of their own, at a disadvantage when they are required to compete against a biological male,” according to the letter.

The letter invokes the case of Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer who has become a celebrity after statements against transgender athletes. She speaks at public events that have become flashpoints in the debate, prompting protests from the LGBTQ+ community. Gaines has spoken at a Donald Trump rally and she endorsed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for president.

In 2022, Gaines tied for fifth place with University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a trans woman.

In a March 26 social media post on X, Gaines said, “Lia Thomas is not a brave, courageous woman who EARNED a national title. He is an arrogant, cheat who STOLE a national title from a hardworking, deserving woman. The @ncaa is responsible.”

The governors’ letter said, “The decade of hard work and the countless hours spent in the pool were suddenly wasted. Riley’s lifetime of achievement was ripped away from her by someone who shouldn’t have even been in the race – all for a photo op.”

“The NCAA has the opportunity to guarantee a fair environment for women’s sports. If you take this opportunity, it will expand the possibilities for so many young women for years to come. But if you continue the NCAA’s misguided policies, stories like Riley Gaines’ will only become more common,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by Lombardo, Gov. Kristi Noem (South Dakota), Gov. Sarah Sanders (Arkansas), Gov. Tate Reeves (Mississippi), Gov. Mike Parson (Missouri), Gov. Greg Gianforte (Montana), Gov. Kevin Stitt (Oklahoma), Gov. Greg Abbott (Texas) and Gov. Mark Gordon (Wyoming). The letter, dated Oct. 30, was released publicly by Noem’s office.

Lombardo’s record on transgender issues is mixed. In June, he signed two bills related to transgender rights and vetoed another.

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