‘Your actions speak louder than your words’: Transgender and non-binary athletes call out NCAA

Transgender and non-binary athletes across the country are taking a stand against the NCAA.

Fifty current and former college athletes sent a letter to the governing body Wednesday asking it to take action in response to a wave of states' anti-transgender athlete bills.

"We, the undersigned, are deeply disappointed and hurt by the NCAA’s choice to host Division I softball championship games in states with transgender athlete bans," Athlete Ally Policy and Program Manager Emet Marwell wrote in the letter on behalf of the group. "We are a group of transgender and non-binary current and former NCAA student-athletes, the community you claimed to 'firmly and unequivocally support' in your statement released on April 12th, 2021." 

In May, three states with legislation banning transgender athletes from interscholastic competition were named as hosts for the 2021 college softball tournament, which concludes in June. 

Fifty current and former college athletes sent a letter to the governing body Wednesday asking it to take action in response to a wave of states' anti-transgender athlete bills. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)

This decision came shortly after the NCAA Board of Governors warned state lawmakers in April that actions against the support and inclusion of transgender athletes could result in the loss of championship games and events. 

"Only a month ago, you declared the NCAA 'supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports' and that '[t]his commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition.' This statement is in stark contrast to the decision to host championship games in states with transgender athlete bans."

The 500-word letter went on to question the NCAA's inconsistency in their commitment to promote an inclusive atmosphere. 

MORE:NCAA warns state lawmakers against limiting transgender sports participation

OPINION:NCAA must make states with anti-trans laws pay with loss of championships

In 2016, the NCAA pulled seven championship events from North Carolina following the state's passage of the HB2 and Charlotte Bathroom Bill. Today, the NCAA is hosting championship events in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, where anti-transgender legislation targets transgender and non-binary athletes and bans their participation. 

"What changed?," the athletes asked. "Why did our rights matter five years ago but not today? Your actions speak louder than your words: you are not protecting the rights of trans and non-binary athletes to participate. We will not be silent as you perform your allyship to the world only to turn around and support those hurting trans athletes the most. We have endured too much already."

The group of athletes from schools including Duke, Michigan State, Miami (Fla.), Colorado State and Michigan is demanding answers to the following questions:

  • How will you ensure a discrimination-free and welcoming environment for student-athletes while holding championships in states that have banned transgender student-athletes from participating in sports? And, as in the case of Tennessee, have also passed anti-trans bathroom bills? 
  • Will you uphold your non-discrimination policy and publicly commit to not holding NCAA events in states with legislation that actively discriminates against transgender student-athletes? 
  • As you did when HB2 in North Carolina passed, will you move championship events from states that pass legislation that openly and clearly discriminates against LGBTQ+ student-athletes?

The NCAA has yet to respond to the letter.

Contact Analis Bailey at [email protected] or on Twitter @analisbailey.

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