NCAA may move tournament from Idaho over ban on trans-identified males in female sports

The NCAA logo is seen on the side of a hotel in Dallas, Texas, March 30, 2013.
The NCAA logo is seen on the side of a hotel in Dallas, Texas, March 30, 2013. | (Photo: Reuters/Jim Young)

National Collegiate Athletic Association officials will weigh a decision to move the 2021 men's basketball tournament games scheduled to be played in Idaho because the state recently passed a bill banning trans-identified males from competing in women's sports.

The 2021 NCAA Tournament is slated to feature first and second-round games scheduled to be played at the Taco Bell Center in Boise between March 18 and 20, 2021.

But according to The Idaho Press, the games scheduled for the Taco Bell Center may not occur due to objections raised to House Bill 500, legislation signed into state law in late March by Gov. Brad Little.

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The bill, which is set to go into effect on July 1, prohibits biological males who identify as transgender from participating in female athletics at the high school and university levels.

LBGT advocacy groups, over 400 student-athletes as well as several professional and Olympic athletes have written three separate letters to the NCAA asking them to scrap sponsored events while the bill is on the books, the newspaper reports. 

“Idaho’s law blatantly targets an already-marginalized community in athletics and decreases their participation in sports,” a letter from a group of advocates reads. Among other groups, the letter was signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Women’s Law Center.

The letter from professional athletes was signed by tennis legend Billie Jean King, U.S. Olympic soccer star Megan Rapinoe, Olympic basketball player Sue Bird and others. 

In response to the new law, the ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging that it was invasive and discriminates against trans-identified people. 

But supporters of the law argue that it is necessary to protect fairness, given the numerous physiological advantages that male puberty confers on their bodies. Proponents of the law contend that it is unfair to allow biological males, regardless of hormone use or how they identify, to compete against females.

“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. 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."

The NCAA said in a statement Thursday that officials would discuss the implications of the law for student-athletes in August during a board of governors meeting, according to ESPN.

The athletic association had previously noted their opposition to the bill when it was being considered by the state legislature earlier this year. 

Boise State University said in a statement provided to media outlets that it will "continue to follow NCAA guidance until the new state law goes into effect on July 1."

After the law goes into effect, "all Idaho universities will follow the new law."

“The Attorney General will lead the defense of the law, in coordination with the Governor and legislative leadership," the school's statement explains. 

When North Carolina passed a law that excluded sexual orientation and gender identity from state anti-discrimination statutes and required trans-identified people to use the public restrooms that correspond with their biological sex stated on their birth records in 2016, the NCAA moved championship events scheduled to take place in the southern state.

Along with the bill barring trans-identifying males from participating in women's sports, Idaho Gov. Little also signed into law a separate bill requiring vital statistics to be maintained based on biological sex, banning the alteration of sex markers on public records like birth certificates.

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