Republicans urge NCAA to change policy on trans athletes to ensure ‘fair environment for women’s sports’


Nine Republican governors sent a letter to the NCAA on Monday urging that the organization change its policy regarding transgender student-athletes to “guarantee a fair environment for women’s sports.” 

The current policy has drawn mounting criticism since the NCAA last updated it in January 2022, moving to a “sport-by-sport” approach, similar to the policy of the International Olympic Committee. 

NCAA swimming banners

NCAA banners hang before the start of the Division I Mens Swimming and Diving Championships held at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on March 24, 2023 in Minneapolis. (Carlos Gonzalez/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

“The NCAA has the chance to guarantee an environment where female college athletes can thrive without the concern of inequities,” the letter read in part. 


“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.” 

Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, R-Ark., Gov. Tate Reeves, R-Miss.Gov. Mike Parson, R-Mo., Gov. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., Gov. ​​Joe Lombardo, R-Nev., Gov. Kevin Stitt, R-Okla., Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, and Gov. Mark Gordon, R-Wyo., all signed the letter sent to the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports. 

“The NCAA has the opportunity to guarantee a fair environment for women’s sports,” the letter continued.  

Riley Gaines and Lia Thomas

Riley Gaines, now a spokeswoman for the Independent Women’s Forum, famously tied Lia Thomas, left, for fifth place in the 200 Freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships last year. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)


“If you take this opportunity, it will expand the possibilities for so many young women for years to come. But if you continue the NCAA’s misguided policies, stories like Riley Gaines’ will only become more common. Policies that allow men and women to compete against one another validate an average male athlete stealing the recognition from a truly remarkable female athlete.” 

The letter referenced 12-time NCAA All-American swimmer Riley Gaines, who competed against UPenn transgender swimmer Lia Thomas at the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. 

Gaines and Thomas tied for 5th in the 200 Freestyle finals, but Gaines was given the sixth place trophy instead. 

“When Lia Thomas, a biological male, was allowed to compete in women’s swimming, Riley tied with Lia against all odds. Traditionally, when two swimmers tie, they both stand on top of the podium – but Riley was told that the trophy was going to be given to Lia,” the letter continued. 

Charlie Baker testifies before senate

Charlie Baker, president of the NCAA, arrives for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Name, Image, and Likeness, and the Future of College Sports,” in Hart Building on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)


“Riley’s lifetime of achievement was ripped away from her by someone who shouldn’t have even been in the race – all for a photo op.” 

Newly named NCAA president Charlie Baker was grilled over the organization’s policies earlier this month during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, specifically on safety concerns in the locker room. 

“As I said before, the rules around transgender athletes generally are more restrictive today than they were in ‘22. And I can state pretty clearly that no one’s going to get forced into any sort of situation that’s going to make them uncomfortable,” Baker said. 

“We make that very clear in the guidance that we give to anybody who hosts one of our championships, period.”


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