WASHINGTON, D.C. Late last night, the NCAA ratified ( www.ncaa.org/news/2022/1/20/media-center-ncaa-members-approve-new-constitution.aspx ) its new constitution, which does not include nondiscrimination policy language that had been a part of previous constitutions. The organization took this action despite the urging ( hrc-prod-requests.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Letter-to-NCAA-Board-of-Governors.pdf ) of 18 national advocacy groups across a wide spectrum of issues, led by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Athlete Ally to reinstate and strengthen previously-existing nondiscrimination policy language protecting LGBTQ+ athletes, women, and athletes of color into their new draft constitution ( www.hrc.org/press-releases/human-rights-campaign-athlete-ally-call-on-ncaa-to-include-non-discrimination-language-enforceable-protections-for-transgender-athletes-in-new-constitutio ) . The NCAA also announced a new policy regarding participation of transgender athletes that raises significant concerns. While the NCAA says it supports a safe environment for all student-athletes, it has repeatedly failed to take responsibility for ensuring that safe environment in fact exists for LGBTQ+ athletes, women, and athletes of color.
Last year amidst an historically discriminatory state legislative session the Human Rights Campaign, Athlete Ally, and WNBA players and coaches ( www.hrc.org/press-releases/breaking-2021-becomes-record-year-for-anti-transgender-legislation ) called on the NCAA to protect transgender athletes by opposing anti-trans sports ban bills by enforcing their own policy ( www.hrc.org/press-releases/breaking-2021-becomes-record-year-for-anti-transgender-legislation )of ensuring a 'safe, healthy, and [discrimination-free]' environment for transgender athletes the same policy they cited ( www.ncaa.org/news/2017/4/4/ncaa-board-of-governors-position-on-hb2-repeal.aspx ) for withdrawing from North Carolina in the wake of the HB2 'bathroom bill in 2016.' They promptly did the opposite by announcing championship host sites in states that had recently passed anti-trans sports ban bills ( www.hrc.org/press-releases/human-rights-campaign-reacts-to-ncaa-violating-its-own-anti-discrimination-policy-for-championship-host-sites ). When HRC and Athlete Ally requested a meeting with the NCAA ( hrc-prod-requests.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Request-for-a-Meeting.pdf ) in December of 2021 to lay out just how damaging their lack of action could be to transgender NCAA athletes, they flatly ignored our request. Human Rights Interim President Joni Madison issued the following statement in response to the NCAA's ratified constitution:
"If not through their constitution, the NCAA needs to show us their playbook for protecting LGBTQ+ and specifically transgender athletes from discrimination. The NCAA has so far proven to be an unreliable ally to LGBTQ+ athletes across the country who depend upon the organization to protect them from discrimination and now they owe these athletes answers. Their inaction is giving extremist legislators across the country precisely what they want and need to advance a discriminatory agenda targeting LGBTQ+, and particularly transgender, people: their silence, which provides the cover to push radical policies. Look no further than Indiana's religious refusal law in 2015 or the 2017 HB2 bathroom bill in North Carolina to see the impact NCAA action can have in defeating discriminatory legislation. Unfortunately, the past two years have been a disastrous example of what happens when the NCAA does nothing meaningful to stand up to this historic discriminatory effort.
The NCAA's new policy on transgender participation is equally concerning, particularly given that it came as a surprise to advocates who had been engaging with the NCAA on this issue. Their rollout of this policy has left many athletes and individual sports programs confused, concerned, and uncertain about their own future. The NCAA refusing to take responsibility for ensuring that LGBTQ+ athletes, women, and athletes of color have safe, equitable ability to participate in athletics puts schools and conferences in an impossible position and makes it more difficult to enforce fairness amidst an ever-changing patchwork of state laws across the country. The NCAA's unresponsiveness, unwillingness to re-implement common sense language, and inability to enforce their own policies to protect athletes vulnerable to discrimination are all deeply disappointing and dangerous. We know they are capable of better."
Read more about the 18 national advocacy groups who yesterday publicly urged the NCAA yesterday to adopt previously existing nondiscrimination language in their new constitution:
Sports Illustrated: Advocates Call on NCAA to Add Nondiscrimination Language to Constitution: www.si.com/college/2022/01/20/ncaa-constitution-nondiscrimination-hrc-athlete-ally-glaad .
NBC Sports: Advocates call for NCAA to add nondiscrimination protections to new constitution onherturf.nbcsports.com/2022/01/20/advocates-call-for-ncaa-to-add-nondiscrimination-protections-to-new-constitution/ .
The 19th: LGBTQ+ advocates ask NCAA not to cut nondiscrimination protections for athletes: 19thnews.org/2022/01/lgbtq-advocates-ncaa-nondiscrimination-protections-athletes/ .
The Week: Advocacy organizations urge NCAA to include nondiscrimination protections in constitution: theweek.com/culture/sports/1009208/advocacy-organizations-urge-ncaa-to-include-nondiscrimination-protections-in .