NCAA Commits to Inclusivity in Response to Letter from LGBTQ Advocates

By Katie Barnes | ESPNw

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More than 80 LGBTQ equality organizations, led by the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, have signed on to a letter urging the NCAA to consider lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people as it weighs the locations of future championship sites.

The letter commends the NCAA for the steps the organization has taken to ensure “safe and inclusive events” and outlines the kinds of locations lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality organizations would like the NCAA to avoid, including:

• Venues in cities or states with laws that sanction discrimination against LGBTQ people in goods, services or public accommodations.

• Venues in cities or states that prevent transgender people from using the bathroom or locker room consistent with their gender identity.

• Venues at schools that request Title IX exemptions to discriminate against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

• Venues in states that pre-empt or override local nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

“The NCAA has committed to ensuring that their championship events are safe, healthy and free from discrimination, and we are calling on its governing board to affirm that commitment in the current site selection process,” said Hudson Taylor, executive director of Athlete Ally. “Our letter outlines principles that can and should be adopted to guarantee that LGBTQ players, coaches and fans are protected and respected wherever NCAA events are held.”

The letter comes in response to a number of states considering LGBTQ-related laws, including Texas, and the sporting community’s increasing involvement in the politics of LGBTQ equality. The NCAA removed championship events from North Carolina after the passage of House Bill 2, following the example set by the NBA, which relocated the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans. The NCAA has previously commented on Religious Freedom Restoration Act bills in Indiana and Georgia as well.

NCAA president Mark Emmert replied to the letter Monday, saying he will continue to monitor the situation.

“The Board and I remain committed to maintaining a college sports experience that is inclusive and fair for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Emmert wrote. “As the next round of site selections is underway, this commitment has not changed. The bidding process for hosting NCAA events now explicitly asks potential sites how they will provide an environment that is safe, respectful and free of discrimination at the events. We expect that all people will be welcomed and treated with respect at our NCAA championships and events.”

Said HRC president Chad Griffin: “The NCAA has stood strongly behind their commitment to building inclusive events, and we ask that they reaffirm that promise. With anti-LGBTQ bills advancing in dozens of states across this country, athletes, fans and workers must know that the NCAA will continue to have their backs and avoid locations where the safety and well-being of any person is put at risk.”

With organizations such as media watchdog GLAAD, PFLAG, Lambda Legal and the National LGBTQ Task Force co-signing, along with numerous state and local organizations, the letter represents the full political weight of the LGBTQ equality movement.

“We know that there are a lot of LGBTQ athletes who don’t have the ability to come out and advocate for themselves because they don’t have adequate protections under NCAA bylaws,” said Ashland Johnson, director of education at HRC. “We wanted those student-athletes and coaches to know that in the LGBTQ civil rights movement, we see them, we hear them, and we have their backs.”