NAIA Bans Transgender Athletes From Women’s Competition

In a 20-0 vote Monday at the NAIA Council of Presidents annual meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, a landmark decision was made for the 241 member schools in the NAIA.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics announced a policy that will likely keep transgender athletes from participating in any of the 25 sports played within the NAIA.

Starting in August, only athletes whose biological sex assigned at birth is female and have not undergone hormone therapy can participate in women’s sports.

Details of the Decision

Although the policy does not restrict any athlete from participating in male sports within the NAIA, the organization explained that biological differences between men and women influenced the passing of this policy.

Competitive cheer and competitive dance remain open to all NAIA athletes.

However, the policy declares that any other sport “includes some combination of strength, speed and stamina, providing competitive advantages for male student-athletes.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr spoke about why the organization felt the new policy would be the best course of action for member schools.

“We feel like our primary responsibility is fairness in competition, so we are following that path,” Carr said. “And we’ve tried as best we could to allow for some participation by all.”

The policy extends changes the NAIA made in its 2023-24 season.

Transgender and nonbinary athletes competed in the division of their choice during the regular season.

However, in the postseason, athletes had to compete in the division of their birth sex.

Response to NAIA Decision

The topic of transgender athlete participation has been the center of controversy politically and socially, with the new NAIA policy receiving a variety of responses.

The NCAA release a statement: “College sports are the premier stage for women’s sports in America and the NCAA will continue to promote Title IX, make unprecedented investments in women’s sports and ensure fair competition for all student-athletes in all NCAA championships.”

The NCAA received a lawsuit last month from former athletes who were against the NCAA allowing transgender woman Lia Thomas to compete in women’s sports.

Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines helped filed the lawsuit and seemed to be in support of the NAIA decision Monday.

On behalf of the National Women’s Law Center, senior counsel Shiwali Patel claimed her organization found the NAIA policy to be “unacceptable” and “blatant discrimination” against transgender athletes.

The debate over transgender athletic participation rages on as Title IX laws face possible changes.

Kasey Havekost, a higher education attorney at Bricker Graydon, commented on how far the NAIA decision could go legally.

“I feel like at some point, it will have to be addressed,” Havekost said. “It’s a really complex issue. It might take a Supreme Court ruling.”

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