Female athletes ask NCAA to ‘keep women’s sports female’, threaten legal action

Former University of Kentucky All-American swimmer Riley Gaines urged the NCAA to protect single-sex sports for women at a rally outside the NCAA annual convention in San Antonio on Jan. 12, 2023 (Image via the Independent Women
Former University of Kentucky All-American swimmer Riley Gaines urged the NCAA to protect single-sex sports for women (Image via the Independent Women's Forum)

Female collegiate athletes, former and current, took a stance on the now-popular question of 'trans-women in women's sports' outside the NCAA annual convention in San Antonio, during a press conference on January 12, 2023.

During the press conference, Marshi Smith, a former University of Arizona swimming champion and co-founder of the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), gave a statement and read a letter addressing the situation. Among their demands was this message to the NCAA:

"We hereby demand that you take direct and immediate action to establish rules to keep women's collegiate sports female."

Marshi Smith's statement continued:

"The NCAA cannot pick and choose which laws to follow. They must protect female athletes from discrimination on the basis of sex, or expect we will be forced to take legal steps to compel them to do so."

Female athletes rally for equal opportunity in sports

The letter addressed to the NCAA was drafted by the Jackson Bone law firm attorneys on behalf of ICONS and several other women's organizations interested in protecting female athletes. Part of the letter read:

"In the world of college sports, it is impossible to provide equal opportunities for both sexes (as required by Title IX) without female-only teams. Yet the NCAA implements and perpetuates a policy of allowing male athletes on women’s teams, even as sports governing bodies and federal courts increasingly reject these unjust and inequitable policies that exclude young women from their own teams."

The letter was sent on behalf of ICONS, Women’s Declaration International USA, Concerned Women of America, International Consortium on Female Sport, Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, Women’s Liberation Front, Independent Women’s Forum, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Champion Women.

The letter, threatening to sue the NCAA, made three major demands in an attempt to protect female athletes in the realm of collegiate sports:

"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."

The rally announcing the official drafting of the letter was led by Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimming champion, as she was joined by more than 20 women. Among them were former and current NCAA athletes, coaches, and Olympians, such as the CEO of Champion Women, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a three-time Olympic swimming gold medalist.

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas
University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas

Gaines began speaking out against what is happening in women's sports after she tied with University of Pennsylvania's openly transgender former swimmer Lia Thomas for fifth place at the 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championships. Gaines, during the rally, said:

"This isn’t just about me ... I’m speaking for those people who can’t handle being called transphobic or can’t handle being called hateful or a bigot, or all of those things which aren’t true, because in reality you’re just asking for the bare minimum and standing up for yourself."

Christiana Kiefer, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel, criticized the NCAA for their indecisiveness after deferring the decision on trans-women in sports to the national governing bodies for individual sports:

"The NCAA should be leading the way to restore fairness and a level playing field to women’s sports, and that means no men in the women’s category ... It’s time to bring the NCAA into compliance with federal law, principles of fairness, and simple biology."

In a relatively short time, a petition called "stop discriminating against women", penned by the Independent Women’s Forum has managed to receive nearly 8,000 signatures.

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Edited by Sabine Algur
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