A coalition of more than 300 female Olympians, professional athletes, Title IX pioneers and college athletes sent a letter to the National College Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Board of Directors.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Save Women’s Sports coalition announced that the female athletes are urging the NCAA to protect women’s sports for biological females. The letter also asks the NCAA “to reject a recent call to boycott Idaho for passing its Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.”
Beth Stelzer is a powerlifter and founder of Save Women’s Sports. She believes women’s sports should only be for biological females – not men who believe they are women. In a press release, she stated, “Common sense and science tell us that men and women are different. Because of those differences, girls and women deserve the opportunity to compete, bond, train, suffer and enjoy victory without the presence of male bodies in their competitions or locker rooms.”
In March 2020, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed into law the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which limits participation in women’s and girls’ sports in Idaho public schools – including junior colleges and universities – to those who are biologically female. The bill keeps boys who think they are girls from taking slots on girls’ teams.
Within weeks, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit challenging the Fairness Act. The ACLU was joined by Legal Voice, a feminist and LGBT legal group, and Cooley, an international law firm, in its complaint. The suit was filed on behalf of Lindsay Hecox, who was born male but lives as a woman. Hecox had planned to try out for the women’s cross-country team at Boise State University in the fall.
The other plaintiff, 17-year-old “Jane Doe,” is not transgender. A biological female, she worries that she might have to go through an “invasive physical examination” by a doctor to verify that she is female.
After filing the challenge, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Action Fund, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and an assortment of women’s sports groups and LGBT-identified athletes sent a letter to the NCAA, asking them to boycott Idaho, because of the Fairness Act. That coalition wants the NCAA to move all scheduled events, including the 2021 Men’s Basketball Championship games, to other states.
But women athletes are pushing back. Two Idaho cross-country and track athletes, Mary Kate Marshall and Madison Kenyon, filed a motion to became involved parties in the ACLU lawsuit against the Fairness Act.
Mary Kate Marshall also signed the letter asking the NCAA to protect women’s sports and keep events in Idaho. She said, “We athletes have diverse views on many topics, but we stand united in our desire to preserve a level playing field for female athletes. Protecting the integrity of women’s sports is pro-woman and pro-fairness. I’m speaking up because I want other young women to benefit from sports as I have.”
World-class athletes who signed the letter include cyclist Jennifer Wagner-Assali, track athlete Cynthia Monteleone, swimmer Donna de Varona and marathon swimmer Sandra Bucha-Kerscher. All four women have challenged transgender athletes in women’s sports or have fought sex discrimination in sports and the media.
Wagner-Assali made headlines in 2019 when she took third in the world championship cycling 200-meter sprint for women ages 35-44. The first-place winner was Rachel McKinnon, now known as Veronica Ivy. Ivy, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds, was born male but “transitioned” in 2012.
Monteleone is a 43-year old mother of three who competes in the 400 meters for Team USA in Masters track events. In 2018, she was the national champion in the 200 and 400 meters, and she helped set national records, winning the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 relays. Earlier this year, Monteleone filed a Title IX complaint on behalf of her daughter when a transgender-identified athlete was set to compete in the Maui Interscholastic League girls’ track and field events.
De Varona competed in the Olympics in 1960 – at the age of 13. She broke 18 world records by age 17, and she won two gold medals in the 1964 Olympics, in the 400-meter medley and the 4×100 freestyle relay. After working for decades as an award-winning television sportscaster and commentator, she was fired by ABC Sports, where she’d worked for more than 30 years. De Varona sued for sex and age discrimination, but she dropped the suit when ABC Sports re-hired her.
Bucha-Kerscher was a marathon swimmer in the 70s who won numerous national and international events. She filed a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association that opened the door for other girls to compete in sports. The judgment “resulted in the initiation of girls’ sports programs and state interscholastic championships for girls.”
While these athletes who signed the letter had their names listed in the ADF and Save Women’s Sports press releases, other athletes who signed were not publicly listed. Christiana Holcomb, Legal Counsel at ADF, explained to us that clients who speak publicly against transgender-identified athletes in women’s sports experience harassment from LGBT activists and their allies.
Holcomb said, “We are leaving it up to the individual athletes to make their participation public.” That’s a sad commentary on our culture, when people censor their opinions for fear of being harmed or harassed.
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