NCAA officials say they will discuss moving the men’s basketball tournament games scheduled to be played in Idaho next spring because the state recently passed a bill banning trans-identified males from competing in women’s sports.
“As we have previously stated, Idaho’s House Bill 500 and resulting law is harmful to transgender student-athletes and conflicts with the NCAA’s core values of inclusivity, respect and the equitable treatment of all individuals,” the organization said in a June 11 statement. “Further, Board of Governors policy requires host sites to demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event. As such, the NCAA Board of Governors was scheduled to discuss the legislation and its implications to student-athletes at its August meeting. NCAA championships are open to everyone, and the Association is committed to assuring that its events are safe and healthy for all who attend. It is our clear expectation that all NCAA student-athletes will be welcomed, treated with respect, and have nondiscriminatory participation wherever they compete.”
House Bill 500, aka The Fairness for Women in Sports Act, was signed into state law by Idaho Gov. Brad Little in late March and is set to go into effect on July 1. The law will prohibit biological males who identify as transgender from participating in female athletics at the high school and university levels.
The NCAA’s most recent statement came one day after LGBTQ advocacy groups and several high-profile lesbian athletes, including Billy Jean King, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird, called on the organization to move all NCAA championship events in 2021 out of Idaho in order to “promote an inclusive atmosphere.” Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, also a lesbian, has been one of the few prominent athletes to question the fairness of biological males competing against females.
Like Navratilova, proponents of HB 500 argue that the law is needed to ensure fairness for biological female athletes.
“It’s profoundly ironic and deeply disappointing that a few female athletes—women who have clearly benefited from the athletic opportunities protected by Title IX—are now advocating to abolish female-only sports,” Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Christina Holcomb said in a statement.
“Comparably fit and trained male athletes will always have physical advantages over females; that’s the whole reason we have girls’ sports as a separate category,” she added. “If we ignore these clear biological differences, female athletes will lose medals, podium spots, public recognition and opportunities to compete in the sports they love.
“Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act was designed to protect fair competition and athletic opportunities for female athletes. The NCAA should ignore calls to punish the state of Idaho for courageously protecting the integrity of women’s sports.”
This is not the first time the NCAA has threatened to boycott a state based on its gender laws.
In 2016, when North Carolina passed House Bill 2, which required trans-identified people to use public restrooms that correspond with their biological sex stated on their birth records, the NCAA disqualified the state from hosting championship events for the 2016-17 academic year.
The North Carolina law was repealed a year later, prompting the NCAA to quickly lift its ban on events in the state.
At this point, next year’s first and second round NCAA tournament games are scheduled for March 18 and 20 at the Taco Bell Center in Boise.