WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), the nation’s most impactful policy organization for women, applauds the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, under the leadership of ranking member Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), for its investigation into the threat to women’s sports, particularly the NCAA policies that allow male athletes to compete in the women’s division and the threat should the Biden administration’s unethical Title IX rewrite take effect.

Independent Women’s Forum, including IWF ambassadors Riley Gaines, Paula Scanlan, Payton McNabb, and Coach Kim Russell, shared their stories  with the senators and provided integral firsthand accounts –  supporting the fact that men competing in women’s sports pose significant risks to women’s privacy, safety and equal opportunity. IWF ambassadors continue to share their voices and their stories to protect the integrity of women’s sports against the Biden administration’s Title IX rewrite.

A few highlights regarding IWF ambassadors shared as part of this phase of the investigation:

Riley Gaines

Riley Gaines told Committee staff that women were never told at the 2022 NCAA Championship event that they would be sharing a locker room with a “fully intact biological male.” She said that when she found out, she “experienced feelings of betrayal” and “immediately left.” She then went up to an official on the pool deck to question the policy, and was told that the NCAA “got around the issue by making the locker rooms unisex.” Gaines noted that the prevailing attitude is that “if women feel uncomfortable with this, they should feel apologetic” and are “the ones who should seek counseling.” 

Paula Scanlan

Paula Scanlan, who competed on Penn’s swimming team, told Committee staff that university administrators did not tell athletes that they couldn’t speak to the media, but that they did say that students would “regret” doing so. 

Payton McNabb

McNabb stated that when a male athlete came as part of a women’s team for another school to compete, it was presented to students as a final decision that was not open for debate. She said that the male athlete was noticeably larger than the women at first glance and physically dominated the competition. During the match, McNabb was severely injured when the player spiked a ball in her direction, causing her to suffer a concussion and neck injury.  The injury did more than end her career as an athlete. She told Committee staff that afterward, her grades dropped noticeably, and she was partially paralyzed on her right side. She also can no longer enjoy certain activities that she used to enjoy, including certain sports, tubing, and riding roller coasters.

Kim Russell

Russell was eventually required to attend a second meeting with the team, the school’s athletic director, and a Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) coordinator, which Kim said felt like a “stoning” and “hanging” and in which students criticized Russell and Russell was asked by school administrators to repeat everything that students said to ensure that she heard it.

Independent Women’s Forum is leading the fight to save women’s sports. Learn more below:

  • IWF ambassadors joined U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill this month for a roundtable discussion on preserving Title IX and saving women’s sports. The Take Back Title IX roundtable, led by U.S. Senator “Coach” Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and moderated by former ESPN broadcaster Sage Steele, focused on the importance of single-sex athletic competition.
  • IWF led the “We Won’t Back Down” Rally at the 2024 NCAA Convention to demand equal athletic opportunity for women. The event was the fourth Our Bodies, Our Sports coalition event featuring female athletes and coaches speaking out against men in women’s sports. Read the NCAA’s response.
  • IWF and IWLC have produced a first-of-its-kind report entitled, “Competition Report: Title IX, Male-Bodied Athletes, and the Threat To Women’s Sports,” to help athletic associations, policymakers, and courts understand the growing threat to female athletes.
  • IWF’s Female Athlete Storytelling drive featuring real stories from real women athletes can be found here.
  • Independent Women’s Voice, IWF’s 501(c)(4) sister organization, drove more than 15,000 public comments to the Department of Education opposing the proposed new Title IX rules. IW’s official comment opposing the rule can be read here.
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