Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, anti-trans pundit Riley Gaines and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem meet at the 2023 Republican Governors Association gathering in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Republican Governors Association’s Facebook page)
Nine Republican governors, several of whom have signed laws banning transgender student-athletes from competing as their authentic selves, sent a joint letter Oct. 30 to the National Collegiate Athletics Association and its Board of Governors about its transgender student-athlete policy.
The first signatory is Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. She and her fellow GOP governors make it clear they are telling the NCAA to abandon its current policy, which changed in 2022 from allowing trans competitors to compete, to putting the onus on individual sports organizations to decide participation rules.
Not good enough, say the governors.
“The NCAA has the chance to guarantee an environment where female college athletes can thrive without the concern of inequities,” the wrote. “We trust that you also want to guarantee just such an environment. But this policy allows the NCAA to avoid responsibility for ensuring the fairness of collegiate sports — therefore it must be changed.”
In addition to Noem, the letter was signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas, Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri, Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana, Gov. Joe Lomardo of Nevada, Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming.
Among the many bogus claims and transphobic statements, including labeling out trans NCAA All-American Lia Thomas a “biological male,” the letter misrepresents what happened after Thomas tied with a cisgender competitor, Riley Gaines, at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta. In March 2022. The two women tied for fifth place in the 200 freestyle. But the governors’ letter claims Gaines was denied posing with “the first-place trophy that she rightfully earned.”
Unlike the governors, the Los Angeles Blade was at that event and witnessed the heat, as well as the podium ceremony that followed. Not expecting a tie finish for fifth place, officials handed Gaines a trophy for another event for the photo op following their contest, and chose to give Thomas the fifth place trophy. The NCAA mailed Gaines her trophy at a later date. Gaines never finished first at that event, and has turned her alleged slight at the championships into a national anti-trans media campaign.
The letter goes on to repeat false misogynist claims about Allyson Felix being unable to compete against high school boys, accusations that trans athletes are “average male athletes stealing” the honors due women athletes and falsely claims that the issue of fairness has been determined by science.
The letter was condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming in a statement Tuesday.
“Whatever Gov. Gordon and this letter’s cosigners might say, this isn’t about leveling the playing field for student athletes or protecting fairness in women’s sports. If it were, these governors would be tackling the actual threats to women’s sports, such as severe underfunding, lack of media coverage, sexist ideologies that suggest that women and girls are weak, and pay equity for coaches and players,” said Libby Skarin, deputy executive director for the ACLU of Wyoming, in a press release.
“This letter to the NCAA is just another attempt to erase transgender people from society while stirring up support from their base of anti-trans activists with fear-mongering tactics and discriminatory rhetoric that harm some of the most vulnerable people in our state,” Skarin said.
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