The NCAA might move college sports out of Idaho because of its law banning trans athletes

Idaho recently passed House Bill 500, a law that allows schools to subject young athletes to invasive medical examinations in order to sideline them if they’re found to be transgender. It goes into effect on July 1, and as a result, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is considering moving its collegiate sporting events outside of the state, potentially costing The Gem State tens of millions of dollars.

On June 10, 60 LGBTQ and allied organizations — including the Trevor Project, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Trans Equality and many more — signed a public letter asking the NCAA, the organization that oversees student-athletes from 1,268 U.S. institutions and conferences, to relocate its upcoming events out of the state.

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“Idaho is the only state in the country with such an extreme, harmful, and discriminatory blanket ban on the participation of transgender women and girls in sports,” the letter said.

The law allows schools to conduct DNA analysis, hormone level monitoring and even an inspection of a young person’s “internal and external reproductive anatomy” to figure out their gender identity. In doing so, the schools could potentially out trans students to their teachers, competitors, and other classmates.

The letter mentions that the NCAA’s anti-discrimination policy says the NCAA “must and shall operate [their] championships and events in alignment with [their] values as [they] strive to promote an inclusive atmosphere in which student-athletes participate.’” In fact, NCAA policy currently allows trans athletes to compete.

The letter also mentioned that the NCAA initially spoke out against Idaho’s bill before it became law and had once relocated its championship games outside of North Carolina after the state passed its own transphobic bathroom bill, HB2, in 2016.

In response to the letter, the NCAA said in a June 11 statement that Idaho’s law is “harmful to transgender student-athletes and conflicts with the NCAA’s core values of inclusivity, respect and the equitable treatment of all individuals.”

The NCAA also said that its Board of Governors policy requires host sites to “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

As such, the NCAA pledged that its Board of Governors will discuss the legislation and its implications to student-athletes at its August meeting so that “its events are safe and healthy for all who attend,” including student-athletes.

NCAA’s support is a big deal because moving the events would not only deprive local businesses of some badly needed revenue, it would also deprive state sports fans the joy of seeing local talent, and force colleges and universities to spend more to send students to out-of-state games. The NCAA’s support was integral during the fight to repeal North Carolina’s HB2, and it could make a big difference here too.

In short, the Idaho’s new law could end up angering a lot of people and hurting the state, its residents, and its reputation far more than a few trans athletes ever would.


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