On Monday, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced it will relocate seven national championships from North Carolina because of the state’s now-infamous religious freedom bill, known as House Bill 2, which passed back in March.
The decision, made by the NCAA board of governors, will affect both men’s and women’s championships for tennis, basketball, and soccer amongst other sports, and will deprive the state of the benefits of hosting these major events. In its statement, the board justified the move with its apparent concern for North Carolina’s LGBT citizens—who represent 3.3 percent of the state’s population—adding that the current laws conflict with the NCAA’s commitment to “fairness and inclusion.”
Although the sports organization took issue with many aspects of HB2, foremost on their list of grievances was the fact that under the law, transgender people are legally forbidden from using their preferred locker room and restroom facilities on government-managed property.
Can We Please Call Out The Hypocrisy, Already?
This is not the first time major athletic associations have let political preferences motivate major decisions regarding sporting events. Just this summer, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced its decision to pull the league’s annual All-Star game from North Carolina in protest of the controversial law. National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell has pledged to fight the bill, exclaiming, “anything that discriminates, we oppose.” All three organizations also exerted considerable pressure on Indiana and Georgia recently, threatening to divert their business when those legislatures were deliberating over similar religious freedom legislation.
Of course, the decisions these powerful organizations make can be chalked up to little more than grandstanding, motivated by a desire to pander to the popular political agenda of the day. They may claim to be concerned about the well-being of transgender folk at their championships, but just as many on their side of issue characterize conservatives’ concerns as “baseless,” so too are theirs.
There have been zero recorded instances of a transgender person being assaulted at any NCAA, NBA, or NFL sporting event. Less than 1 percent of all hate crimes in 2014—the year with the most recent available statistics—were motivated by gender identity. Very few police reports exist regarding assaults on transgender people in locker rooms or bathrooms; indeed, the vast majority of evidence the media uses derives from personal accounts or self-conducted surveys wherein a perceived dirty look constitutes “harassment.” Indeed, it’s quite an irrational fear to assume that hosting a golf match in North Carolina would result in widespread violence towards that state’s transgender population.
There are countless other ways we can perceive the dishonesty in these groups’ commitment to fairness and inclusion for all. The NBA often organizes international basketball matches with teams from other countries, some of which—like Turkey—are far less progressive than the United States on LGBT rights. The NCAA, too, has a long history of hosting bowl games in countries like the Bahamas and Japan, which offer no sexual orientation or gender identity protections. Sports teams also have a well-known, hostile subculture: walk through any professional locker room, and you’ll no doubt hear some players alternate between homophobic slurs and casual sexism.
Given their love of inclusion, why haven’t the NBA or the NCAA pulled their operations in these regressive countries? Why haven’t they worked to eradicate the discrimination present within their own organizations before criticizing legislation passed in civil society?
Dear NCAA, et. al: Stand Up for Women
While the NCAA and other sports leagues trip over themselves to defend special privileges for 0.3 percent of the U.S. population, they’ve evidently forgotten about a much larger and more important demographic: women.
In response to the NCAA’s decision, North Carolina GOP Spokeswoman Kami Mueller released a statement criticizing the organization for its decision, saying “I wish the NCAA was this concerned about women who were raped at Baylor. Perhaps the NCAA should stop with their political peacocking—and instead focus their energies on making sure our nation’s collegiate athletes are safe, both on and off the field.”
Mueller’s statement immediately garnered significant attention, and rightly so, considering that in the very same breath as its rebuke of North Carolina, the NCAA reiterated its commitment to “values of inclusion and gender equity,” as well as its desire to provide ”a safe and respectful environment” at all their events. Let’s take a deeper look into how they’re doing on the whole gender equality and safety stuff, shall we?
Mueller cited a recent case at Baylor University, in which multiple rape survivors accused the college’s administration of deliberately ignoring or mishandling accusations of assault launched against star football players. Baylor is by no means an isolated incident. A large body of literature suggests student athletes commit sexual assault at considerably higher rates than other students on campus. More recently, the case of Brock Turner and the high-profile accusations waged against Jameis Winston in the documentary film “The Hunting Ground” have brought this widespread problem to light. Indeed, researchers are even beginning to analyze the rate at which reports of sexual assault coincide with home and away college football games.
Professional sports leagues like the NBA and the NFL also haven’t lived up to their purported values. The NFL has long been accused of having a “violence against women” problem, thanks to both a large number of domestic abuse cases involving starting players (such as Ray Rice and Greg Hardy), as well as the league’s lax disciplinary rules regarding domestic violence, which have historically been less harsh than drug policy violations. The NBA, meanwhile, has yet to implement a consistent domestic violence policy, and the league has ignored some particularly egregious cases in the past, such as then-rookie J.J. Redick coercing his girlfriend to terminate her pregnancy in 2007 as per their abortion contract.
Again, we have to ask: why should we believe the self-touted “values” of the NCAA and their ilk when they routinely ignore the safety and dignity of women? Why do they jump at the chance to pander to a tiny sliver of the population when they could be doing far more for women—who contribute to their industry as fans, compete under their jurisdiction, and constitute half of the U.S. population?
It’s A Matter of Time Before Trans Goes Pro
Considering the trajectory of the transgender movement, the NCAA may soon come to regret its steadfast support of special preferences and privileges for gender non-conforming Americans. We’ve all heard about the open bathrooms and locker rooms many cities and several states now mandate. But the mania has spread far beyond that frontier, infecting even more civil institutions.
Women’s colleges now accept men who claim to be women. Hundreds of universities now offer “gender-neutral” housing. The Department of Justice has instructed prisons to place inmates based on identity rather than biology. And sports teams from the middle school level up to the Olympic Games now allow biological men to compete in women’s sports and vice versa.
This last policy development is most relevant to these professional sports leagues. The transgender movement has already de-sexed sports at levels both local and international. Why shouldn’t it encompass professional American sports leagues as well? Their exclusion from the golden rule of the trans movement—that identity trumps all—would be completely arbitrary. Indeed, by the NCAA’s own standards, it will have to comply with this inevitable demand.
As Mueller noted in her statement: “I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams. Under the NCAA’s logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers, and hotel rooms. This decision is an assault to female athletes across the nation. If you are unwilling to have women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, how do you have a women’s team?”
Acquiescing to and ardently endorsing open locker room policies—as the NCAA has done—signals acceptance of the idea that biology doesn’t matter, that “trans women are women” and “trans men are men.” If this is true in the case of bathrooms, then it must be true in the case of all civil institutions. What leg would the NCAA have to stand on if faced with the prospect of de-sexing their professional teams? How could it reject that demand, yet remain “committed to values of fairness and inclusion?”
Once this happens, how do you think the millions of female athletes will feel? Competing with biological men for a spot on the field would be hard enough—but what about athletic scholarships designed specifically for women? Will anyone self-identifying as “female” be eligible for those as well? If so, underprivileged female athletes who rely on such aid programs will have yet another obstacle to overcome.
If the trans movement continues on its path to professional leagues, it will mean the end of female sports. Women will have no defense against the next biological male who wants to hop in their boxing rings or race them on the track. As a friend and colleague of mine once put it, “when gender identity wins, women and girls always lose.” Let’s hope the NCAA wises up to this fact sooner rather than later.