WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) calls attention to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), NCAA President Charlie Baker, and members of the NCAA Board of Governors’ ongoing failure to protect women’s collegiate sport and equal athletic opportunities for its more than 220,000 female athletes. The NCAA Board held a meeting on April 25 to consider the NCAA’s participation policy allowing male athletes to compete in women’s sports. In a statement following this meeting, the NCAA claimed the “policy remains under review” and that it would “continue to promote Title IX” and “ensure fair competition.”

Yet the NCAA’s current policy continues to deny female athletes equal opportunity and allow male athletes to take trophies, roster spots, playing time, resources, and opportunities to compete from female athletes. Moreover, the current policy encourages member schools to break the law. Title IX requires schools to offer equal athletic opportunities for both female and male students and allows for single-sex teams in order to achieve equality. In order to enforce Title IX, the laws of 21 states forbid colleges from allowing males in women’s sports. Unless and until such time as the Supreme Court decides otherwise, the NCAA must do the right thing and stop encouraging its member schools to violate the law.

The NCAA Board’s failure to preserve the integrity of women’s sports comes after Our Bodies, Our Sports, the nation’s leading coalition of women’s advocacy organizations fighting for equal opportunity and fairness in women’s sports, activated a nationwide campaign driving more than 7,000 personalized letters from NCAA female athletes to the NCAA Board of Governors. In addition, a first-of-its-kind female athlete lawsuit was filed against the NCAA (Gaines et al v NCAA et al).

The NCAA adopted its policy allowing men who identify as women to compete in women’s sports without the input of its female athletes and advocates for the female sporting category. The current policy contradicts scientific studies that have found testosterone suppression cannot eliminate the male athletic advantage. Moreover, it ignores the legal obligation of its member schools to provide males and females equal opportunities to compete.

“Independent Women’s Forum has put out a report called Competition that summarizes all of the studies out there on this topic, which make very clear that you cannot, no matter how much you suppress your testosterone or how much hormone therapy you take, you cannot turn yourself into a woman,” said Jennifer C. Braceras, vice president for legal affairs at IWF and founder of Independent Women’s Law Center (IWLC). “Title IX, which all of these colleges and universities are governed by, isn’t a fairness statute. And it’s not even just an athletic statute. It’s an equal opportunity statute. And when you take away an opportunity from a female athlete and give it to a male, you are violating Title IX and discriminating on the basis of sex, period.”

“The NCAA has no policy on single-sex locker rooms or travel accommodations,” said Paula Scanlan, former NCAA athlete from the University of Pennsylvania and former teammate of Lia Thomas. Scanlan has been outspoken on being forced to undress up to 18x per week in front of Thomas, a transgender-identifying male. “Voyeurism and flashing are criminal offenses against women. And yet, the NCAA has taken no action to protect the privacy of female athletes and has failed to conduct any serious study of the emotional and psychological impact on women from allowing trans-identifying males into women’s spaces.”

Shortly after the NCAA Board of Governors’ April 25 meeting concluded, the Our Bodies, Our Sports coalition held an X Space event featuring over a dozen current and former NCAA female athletes, including several former Olympians. Here is what they said (full recording of the online event can be found here):

Riley Gaines, 12x All-American swimmer, 5x SEC Champion and record holder, 2022 NCAA Woman of the Year nominee, Independent Women’s Forum ambassador, and host of “Gaines for Girls” on OutKick:

“We see a lot of the stories of women losing out on opportunities or being exploited in a locker room setting or being injured in their sports. Unfortunately, it takes those circumstances to highlight and to spread awareness of the severity, the likelihood of these instances continuing to happen. But the impact, the traction, the momentum that we have in really waking parents up, waking coaches up, medical providers, just your everyday commonsense American who intuitively knows that men and women are not the same, it’s been remarkable.” 

Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest tennis players of all time and founding member of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group:

“We tried to find a way to include trans-identified males. That’s what they are. That’s what I will be calling them. I will not call them trans women. They are trans-identified males who want to compete as women against other women and girls. And we tried to find a way to help them, integrate them into women’s sport. We basically came to a conclusion that there’s no way to include trans-identified males fairly into women’s sports.”

Donna de Varona, Olympic swimming champion, 17-year president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Emmy Award-winning sports broadcaster, and founding member of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group:

“What we have seen with Title IX changes and what’s being done to the female athletes is that women are not only being knocked out of equality, they’re being sidelined, told to shut up, and being absolutely placed in the inferior position now. Title IX and others, at least, were supposed to give us sort of a level playing field. A level playing field is gone, and it doesn’t feel like it’s even a question of equality anymore. It feels like trans rights have been vaulted into a place where they absolutely intend to supersede women’s rights.”

Coach Sylvia Hatchell, former UNC-Chapel Hill basketball coach, fifth most career wins in NCAA history, former USA Basketball team assistant and head coach:

“At times I’ve actually had tears in my eyes because we have fought this …

so hard. In 1972, when Title IX was passed, I was a sophomore in college and I coached for 44 years. We have fought so hard for 50 years for Title IX, and this is going to take us backwards. This is so wrong to take away the opportunities for females, the scholarships for females. Title IX was passed to make things fair and equal. And this is not fair and equal. It’s not a level playing field in many, many situations.”

Nancy Hogshead, J.D., Olympic champion swimmer, civil rights lawyer, CEO of Champion Women, providing legal advocacy for girls and women in sports, and founding member of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group:

“I can see why people might think this is different than other battles, but I really don’t see it that way. I really see it as this is another attempt to weaken Title IX so that women don’t have full equality under the law. I’m not anti-trans any more than I’m anti-male or anti-man for wanting strong Title IX protections… We deserve our own sports and our own spaces, for fairness, for integrity, for our privacy, and for our safety.”

Inga Thompson, a 10x U.S. National Champion, 3x Olympian, 3x World Championships medalist, 2x podium finisher in the Women’s Tour de France, and founder of the Inga Thompson Foundation:

“I mean, the International Olympic Committee wouldn’t do this. They wouldn’t

put men in there without talking to women first. And just to my horror, when I figured out how all of this had been slid under the door, no women were ever consulted. I think any rational governing body knows that this isn’t fair. And I just keep hoping that with pressure, with protests, with the lawsuits, with the women speaking up, we are making a difference.”

Payton McNabb, Independent Women’s Forum ambassador and three-sport high school athlete whose NCAA dreams were shattered after suffering a debilitating injury after a trans-identifying male player spiked a volleyball into her head:

“I devoted quite a bit of my life, my whole entire life, to sports. [I was a] three-sport athlete—volleyball, basketball, and softball. And I did have hopes of playing in college one day, but that was stripped away from me because of the injury that happened my senior year of high school. I was getting looked at by colleges for sports, and I always dreamed of that since I was little. I worked so hard to be where I was, and it was really unfair that all of that was taken from me by a boy. And with the NCAA, the high school athletics programs base their rules off of what they do, and it’s a trickle-down effect to high school, middle school, and rec league. It’s just as important for everyone else and not just college athletes.”

Madisan DeBos, Southern Utah University D1 cross country and track athlete whose relay team competed against a male athlete:

“It was during the mile leg of our relay that the coach yelled at the male athlete to

‘slow down.’ I believe they started in, I want to say, sixth or seventh place and went up to second. And then that was when the coach yelled at the athlete to slow down, which I have never, ever heard that in my 18 years of running—heard a coach tell an athlete to slow down at a conference championship. Seeing the courage of other women and other people stand up for what is right has definitely helped us do the same. I’m happy to be here now and be able to speak about it and continue this fight.”

Adriana McLamb, spokeswoman for Independent Women’s Forum, former Division 1 volleyball player, and now coach and recruiter to aspiring collegiate female volleyball players:

“The NCAA is displacing female athletes, not only from starting positions, [but] from scholarships, from team rosters, and from the opportunity to grow as a female athlete in women’s sports. If the NCAA doesn’t step up and do the right thing like the NAIA did, then they’re not listening to their stakeholders. Nearly 200,000 letters have gone to the Board of Governors, and they need to listen to those female athletes they represent.”

Victoria Coley, vice president of communications for Independent Women’s Forum and Clemson University alumna:

“Unfortunately, the number of males displacing women in their own sports has only grown. To date, males have stolen 923 trophies, medals, and titles from women and girls across 458 different competitions and over 31 different sports. But the harm they cause is exponential, as every time a man competes in an event or makes a team, a female athlete loses an opportunity to race, a spot on the team, or playing time on the field. And this is to say nothing of the increased risk of injury and the trauma inflicted when female athletes are forced without their consent to share locker rooms with male athletes.”

IWF calls on the NCAA to save women’s sports and follow the lead of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Council of Presidents, who unanimously voted to amend its policy to prohibit males in women’s sports after facing mounting pressure from female athletes and advocates. 

Learn more about IWF’s work to save women’s sports below: 

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