TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A day before the Florida House is set to take up a bill barring transgender women from competing in high school and college sports on girls' and women's teams, the NCAA issued a warning that they may pull future championship events if it passes.
The NCAA said Monday that it "unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete." Meanwhile, those backing Florida's HB 1475 argue that it protects the integrity of competitive sports. With some big college games on Tampa Bay's sports calendar, there's a lot of money potentially riding on what happens next.
Tuesday, the Florida House takes up HB 1475, "The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act." It would prohibit transgender female athletes from competing on female high school or college sports teams, requiring them to play on teams based on biological sex.
"This is to protect the integrity of women's sports and to make sure that every woman and every girl can compete on a level playing field," said Rep. Kaylee Tuck, the bill's sponsor.
"Besides the fact that this legislation is discriminatory and anti-woman, there is no need for it since the FHSAA policy I just mentioned has worked for this long," said Rep. Kristen Arrington.
With Florida being one of dozens of states taking up bills like this, some top coaches and athletes from the NCAA and WNBA urged the NCAA to act in a virtual press conference last Friday, hosted by the Human Rights Campaign.
"The notion that the motivation of transgender athletes is to gain scholarships, or a competitive advantage is simply a false narrative," said Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.
"I consider transgender women my teammates, not a threat," said Lynx forward Napheesa Collier.
Monday, the NCAA Board of Governors issued a statement, saying, "When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected. We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants."
The NCAA's long-standing policy requires testosterone suppression treatment for transgender women to compete in women’s sports.
There's also a Florida Senate version of the bill which would base eligibility of an athlete, transitioning from male to female, on testosterone levels over a 12-month period, similar to the International Olympic Committee policy.
With Florida set to host dozens of college championships, including the Men's Frozen Four in 2023 and Women's Final Four in 2025, both in Tampa, there's revenue at stake.
"The NCAA needs to focus on their own house and not what we do in the Florida House," said Rep. Chris Latvala at a House committee meeting last week.
Major League Baseball recently pulled its All-Star Game from Atlanta following Georgia's passage of its controversial election law. Monday, before the NCAA statement was issued, Governor Ron DeSantis took aim at the idea of companies trying to influence policy.
"Our process is governed by people that get elected and that are trying their best," DeSantis said. "It is not to be represented and governed by large corporations."