NCAA Tightens Rules Against LGBT Discrimination

The athletic organization announced new standards and safeguards for attendees and participants at collegiate tournaments in states that have passed legislation believed to be discriminatory against gay or transgender people. Reaction to the restrictions has been mixed.

The NCAA is taking a firmer stance on an issue that’s already created headaches within the event space.

Late last month, the NCAA Board of Governors voted to require cities that host sports tournaments to show they can provide a safe, nondiscriminatory event for the public—including safeguards for participants. The strategy arose in response to a set of recent laws in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee that have been seen as discriminatory against gay and transgender individuals.

Kirk Schulz, the chair of the Board of Governors and president of Kansas State University, said that the strategy was meant to ensure that the NCAA’s events were welcoming, even if the state laws weren’t.

“The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds,” Schulz said in a news release. “So it is important that we assure that community—including our student-athletes and fans—will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.”

The response to the NCAA’s move has been mixed. Go Athletes, an organization for LGBTQ current and former athletes at the high school and college level, welcomed the move but suggested it needed to go further.

“It can’t just be championships. It has to be the regular season. It has to be more,” Chris Mosier, a transgender athlete who serves as the group’s executive director, told USA Today. “The NCAA is a giant organization and I know there are politics involved. But at the end of the day, the NCAA has to protect its student-athletes at all possible costs. This is one of many steps.”

Journalist Cyd Zeigler, cofounder of the news site Outsports.com, was critical of the move, saying it didn’t go anywhere near far enough.

“It’s a toothless policy and it’s not going to have any immediate effect,” Zeigler told MSNBC last week. “We have been asking the NCAA to do two things: move its events out of places trying pass these bills, and bar all institutions that discriminate against LGBT people from being members of the NCAA … This is a bait-and-switch.”

The NCAA has been caught in the crossfire before. Last year in Indiana, a religious-freedom law similar to North Carolina’s passed but was later revamped. Prior to the change, the association was put in a difficult situation because not only was Indianapolis home to the Final Four that year but also home to the association’s national headquarters.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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