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Athletes Sue NCAA Over Transgender Participation Policy

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More than a dozen current and former collegiate female athletes have sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association over its transgender participation policy. The athletes filed a lawsuit with a US District Court in Georgia on Thursday, March 14, 2024.

A picture of female athletes protesting transgender athletes participation
Source: CNN/X

The lawsuit stems from the January 2022 NCAA Board of Governors ruling. The then-ruling allows transgender athletes to compete in the category of their affirmed gender on a sport-by-sport basis. Furthermore, the NCAA asserted that the verdict preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes.

The association also claimed it balances “fairness, inclusion, and safety for all who compete.” However, the athletes argued otherwise in their ruling. They alleged that the NCAA “serially violated” Title IX in its 2022 ruling. In addition, they accused the association of “purposefully adopting and amending policies.”

They claimed the NCAA did that to allow transgender swimmer Lia Thomas to compete with the UPenn women’s swim team during NCAA competitions. Consequently, Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle event in March 2022.

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ALSO READ: Massachusetts Girl’s Team Forfeits Basketball Game Over Trans Athlete Participation

Therefore, 16 female athletes from sports like swimming, soccer, and track and field filed the lawsuit. They claim to “bring this case to secure for future generations of women the promise of Title IX that is being denied them and other college women.”

“Many people ask us why we waited so long to file a lawsuit?” Kaitlyn Wheeler said. “Well, we waited this long to allow the NCAA every opportunity to make the right decision.” Wheeler, a former University of Kentucky swimmer, added, “The NCAA’s most basic job is to protect the fairness and the safety of its athletes.” 

She added, “And it has failed on that simple task.” The athletes’ complaint highlights an alleged incident at the 2022 NCAA National Swimming Championship. The event involved former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines and Thomas, a UPenn transgender swimmer.

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According to the lawsuit, Gaines tied fifth place with Thomas in the 200-free competition. However, as they prepared for the podium ceremony, an NCAA official told Gaines that only Thomas would hold the trophy. In the lawsuit, Gaines claims she questioned the official.

“I’m so sorry,” the official allegedly says. “We have been advised that when they take the photos, it is crucial that Lia Thomas holds the trophy.” Hence, the athletes claim in the suit that Thomas’ ascendency in the NCAA women’s swimming was due to male advantage.

Hence, the lawsuit seeks a judge to declare that the NCAA violated Title IX and the Fourteenth Amendment. Also, it wants to keep the NCAA from “enforcing or implementing” its transgender eligibility rules. Furthermore, the plaintiffs want the court to invalidate and revise all records and titles of transgender athletes in women’s sports.

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ALSO READ: NCAA Volleyball Player Calls Out Trans Athletes For Putting Women’s Opportunities “At Risk”

“What the plaintiffs are really after is an equal and fair opportunity to succeed,” William Bock, the lead attorney in the lawsuit, said. “For everybody to be equal at the starting line.” Following the lawsuit, the NCAA issued a statement.

“College sports are the premier stage for women’s sports in America,” the association said. “While the NCAA does not comment on pending litigation, the Association and its members will continue to promote Title IX.” The association said it will continue to “make unprecedented investments and ensure fair competition in all NCAA championships.”

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