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What the NCAA's blockbuster admission says about the future of women's sports

OpinionWhat the NCAA's blockbuster admission says about the future of women's sports

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Two years after University of Pennsylvania trans athlete Lia Thomas won a national title in women’s swimming, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) continues to brazenly throw females athletes to the curb to make way for trans-identifying males to take their place on the podium, not to mention their scholarships and their opportunities. Champion swimmers like Riley Gaines who had to step aside for Thomas to appear on the winners podium or Kylee Alons who had to dress in a storage closet to protect her privacy and dignity from a biological male in the locker room have never received a hearing by NCAA executives about what they went through or what other female athletes face going forward.

At a time when the NCAA faces backlash for suppressing women’s achievements, NCAA President Charlie Baker made a blockbuster admission buried on page 18 of a recent letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee: “The NCAA has never studied the harm of its policy allowing males identifying as women to participate and compete on women’s teams.” Not ever.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) posed the question among a series in follow up to Baker’s appearance at a hearing entitled Name, Image, Likeness and the Future of College Sports:

Sen. Mike Lee: Has the NCAA assessed the physical, emotional, psychological harm of its transgender inclusion policy on female athletes? If so, what are the findings? If not, why not?
Pres. Baker: The NCAA has not conducted any research related to the current transgender policy.  

That’s a bombshell. The NCAA’s “Transgender Student-Athlete Participation Policy” which sent male Lia Thomas into the women’s locker room and continues to promote males for national titles in women’s sports has never been researched for its (now evident) harm to female athletes. 

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NCAA flags

A general view of NCAA pool flags. (Scott Taetsch/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

In many federal courts of law, this fact alone would be grounds for a nationwide injunction. 

And it’s a serious admission in black and white, especially as the NCAA faces the heat of its misogynistic history as Caitlin Clark continues her impressive record-breaking run in women’s basketball. The University of Iowa standout just shattered the NCAA Division I career scoring record, but achievements of previous record holders, most notably Lynette Woodard of the University of Kansas (1978-81) were never recorded because the NCAA erased female athletes in the annals of college women’s sports

As Sally Jenkins, writing for The Washington Post, observes, “To sum up, the NCAA doesn’t regard women’s basketball records as records, because before 1982, the NCAA didn’t want women in their organization.”

DOREEN DENNY: FOR NCAA WOMEN, CHARLIE BAKER’S LEGACY IS BEING WRITTEN

Today, the NCAA doesn’t care if competitors in women’s sports are even women. It’s fully willing to allow trans-identifying men to break records in women’s sports, along with risking their safety, stealing their trophies, suppressing their athletic achievements, and even taking their scholarships.

Baker’s astonishing admission should be grounds for the NCAA to cease and desist from its trans participation policy immediately. How can the NCAA continue to double down on a policy dictating inclusion of trans-identifying males in women’s college sports if that 14-year policy has never been evaluated for its harm to female student-athletes and obligations under Title IX?  

How can the NCAA’s Chief Medical Officer proudly prioritizing mental health, and its committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport (CSMAS) responsible for NCAA transgender policy, defend this trans-inclusion framework without ever researching its harm? They can’t. We know from experience the policy has directly and disproportionately impacted women athletes – physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  

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To make matters worse, while Baker was testifying in Congress last fall the CSMAS was appointing a new “independent” member, Dr. Jack Turban, to its committee. Turban is well known as a medical activist in trans-policy circles who will surely impose his “expert” biased opinions about trans inclusion in women’s sports on the NCAA. Turban’s 2021 article in Scientific American, Trans Girls Belong on Girls Sports Teams, claims “there is no scientific case for excluding them.”   Based on what research?

Baker’s admission is a direct indictment of the CSMAS and its dubious “scientific” procedures, now that we learn the committee has never cared about assessing the policy’s harm to women since its adoption in 2010.    

For organizations representing women across generations like Concerned Women for America, the fact Charlie Baker isn’t catching any heat for his admission, by any ruling political party, is tragic.

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