A group of women athletes and their supporters protested at the NCAA Annual Convention, hosting a press conference and a “Tell the NCAA: Stop Discriminating Against Female Athletes Rally.”
The rally, on Thursday January 12, was held in opposition to NCAA policies that allow male athletes who “identify as” female to compete in women’s sports, “exclude young women from their own teams,” and threaten privacy and safety in locker rooms and showers.
Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz tweeted about the event, which took place in San Antonio:
Breaking! Athletes & Leaders from #SaveWomensSports rally meeting w/ #NCAA representatives now to present legal demand letter asking NCAA to “Stop discriminating against female athletes” . T/y @ADFLegal – @CWforA – @icons_women – @IWF – @riley_gaines_ – @txvalues for great work pic.twitter.com/TJoSE5kefC
— Jonathan Saenz (@jonathansaenzTX) January 12, 2023
Marshi Smith is a former NCAA and PAC-10 champion swimmer from the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Independent Council on Women’s Sports. She read a demand letter, telling the NCAA it would face a lawsuit unless it changed its policies.
The letter was from three attorneys with Jackson Bone Law, on behalf of ICONS, and states:
We write as attorneys on behalf of the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), a network of current and former collegiate and professional women athletes and their families, to put you on official notice that your practice of allowing male athletes on women’s teams constitutes illegal discrimination against women on the basis of sex. We hereby demand that you take direct and immediate action to establish rules to keep women’s collegiate sports female.
The group said that equal opportunities for both sexes – as required by Title IX – require female-only teams. A federal law signed in 1972, Title IX’s purpose was to provide equal opportunities for females at schools supported by taxpayer funds.
The letter objected to NCAA policies allowing male athletes to participate in female sports, and the attorneys stated:
The NCAA’s discriminatory policies and practices violate state and federal law, directly and proximately resulting in foreseeable and avoidable harms, damages, and losses to female athletes.
The NCAA is not above the law.
If you do not protect female athletes from discrimination on the basis of sex, we will embark on legal action to compel you to do so.
In addition to undermining opportunities for women, the NCAA policies undermine women’s privacy and safety. The letter included this list of demands:
To avoid legal action, the NCAA must comply with civil rights law immediately by:
Repealing all policies and rules that allow male athletes to take roster spots on women’s teams and/or compete in women’s events;
Establishing and enforcing rules to keep women’s sports female;
Requiring colleges to provide single-sex locker rooms for female athletes.
More than a dozen athletes participated in the rally, some of whom have been affected by state or NCAA policies allowing men who claim to be women to compete in their sports, including:
- Riley Gaines, Former NCAA 2x All-American swimmer from the University of Kentucky. She tied for 5th place against Lia Thomas at the NCAA 2022 Championships.
- Adriana McLamb, Former NCAA volleyball player from Florida International University, and current Team Florida All Star coach.
- Kim Jones, former All-American tennis player, mother of Ivy League swimmer, and co-founder of ICONS.
- Blake Allen, High school volleyball player from Vermont who had to compete and share a locker room with male athlete identifying as a female. After speaking up and calling this athlete a “he”, Blake was suspended from school and her father was suspended from his coaching job.
We are proud of our clients Lainey Armistead and Blake Allen for their courage to defend other female athletes nationwide.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) January 12, 2023
Organizations that participated in the rally and supported the demand letter include the Independent Women’s Forum, Women’s Liberation Front, Women’s Sports Policy Working Group and Concerned Women for America.
Alliance Defending Freedom also backed the letter, and Senior Counsel Christiana Kiefer said in a statement:
Female athletes have fought long and hard for equal opportunities, and they deserve to compete on a level playing field. Men and women are different, and those real physical differences make it unfair to force women and girls to compete against bigger, faster, and stronger males.
For 50 years, Title IX has protected female athletes so that they can compete and win. But the NCAA’s regressive policies ignore biological reality and harm women. We are calling on the NCAA to stop discriminating against female athletes and establish policies to protect women’s sports.”
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Photo from Twitter.