On Monday, the body that regulates college athletics said it will "closely monitor" states that pass laws restricting transgender athletes and will consider pulling championship events from such locations.
The statement from the NCAA's Board of Governors stopped short of pledging any action, although it did say it only holds championship events in locations "where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination."
Mississippi's governor last month signed a bill into law prohibiting biological males from competing in girls' or women's sports. Dozens of other states are considering similar bills.
The statement from the NCAA's Board of Governors said it "firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports."
"This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition," the statement said.
In 2019, a transgender woman, CeCe Telfer of Franklin Pierce University, won the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Division II outdoor track and field championship. One year earlier, Telfer competed as a man. According to an article in LetsRun.com, Telfer never qualified for the national meet as a man and ranked 200th and 390th in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
The Board of Governors said the NCAA "has a long-standing policy that provides a more inclusive path for transgender participation in college sports."
"Our approach – which requires testosterone suppression treatment for transgender women to compete in women's sports – embraces the evolving science on this issue and is anchored in participation policies of both the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee," the statement said. "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."
But LetsRun.com said the NCAA's rules are not similar to international rules.
"There is no mention of a minimum testosterone level that must be achieved or a minimum level of medication that must be taken, nor how those levels are to be monitored," LetsRun.com said of the NCAA rules. "Contrast that to the International Olympic Committee, which requires that an MTF transgender athlete 'must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition.'"
The statement by the NCAA concluded: "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. 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."
Although the ACLU reported that the NCAA had "confirmed it will pull events from states," several sports journalists who cover the NCAA said the organization had not done that.
Today the NCAA confirmed it will pull events from states with bills banning trans students from participating in school sports.— ACLU (@ACLU) April 12, 2021
State lawmakers take note: discriminating against trans youth is wrong, against the law, and costly.
Bryan Fischer of Athlon Sports tweeted, "NCAA Board of Governors' statements on voting/transgender laws TLDR: here's a generic word salad on key issues but we're not taking any sort of action."
NCAA Board of Governors statements on voting/transgender laws tldr: here’s a generic word salad on key issues but we’re not taking any sort of action.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) April 12, 2021
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Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Andy Lyons/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.