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By Scott Gleeson
In an effort to protect its teams and their respective fanbases from discrimination — particularly to those in the LGBT community — in states such as North Carolina, the NCAA has implemented an anti-discrimination process for championship bids, the organization announced on Wednesday following its quarterly meeting in Indianapolis.
“Well, it’s a step in the right direction,” Pat Griffin, professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts and a leading advocate for the LGBT movement told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday in response to the NCAA’s updated process. “Their silence prior to this was unacceptable. I’m happy to see that they have spoken. I think there’s more that they could have done but it’s a start.”
The NCAA Board of Governors adopted the new requirements for sites to host or bid for major NCAA events, such as the Final Four, in all divisions.
“The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds,” said Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University and chair of the Board of Governors. “So it is important that we assure that community – including our student-athletes and fans – will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.”
Schulz, in a story by USA TODAY Sports focused on tensions between religious schools with anti-gay policies, said the NCAA is a “powerful bully pulpit” and that the organization “does need to take some stands.”
This is one of them.
The move comes as a response to legislatures in several states that have passed laws allowing residents to refuse to provide services to some people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. North Carolina’s House Bill 2, for instance, requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that match their gender at birth.
Transgender athlete Chris Mosier, speaking to USA TODAY Sports about competing in Cary, N.C., on May 14 for the Long Distance Duathlon, said the law was laced with transphobia and deeply hurtful, labeling it “terrible mistake” and “ridiculous policy.”
Mosier, the executive director of GO! Athlete, told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday he was pleased with the NCAA’s progress but noted “it can’t just be championships. It has to be the regular season. It has to be more. The NCAA is a giant organization and I know there are politics involved. But at the end of the day, the NCAA has to protect its student-athletes at all possible costs. This is one of many steps.”
The NCAA is not in charge of regular season competition. Regular season competition is run by college conferences, which are made up of NCAA-member schools.
The NCAA drew criticism from LGBT advocates when it did not move the Final Four from Houston this past season after the city voted to end discrimination protection for LGBT people. A similar issue arose in 2015’s Final Four in Indianapolis and the NCAA took a firm stance against the discriminatory law then.
The NCAA said in its news release, “Historically, the Association has used the opportunity to host its events as a means to make clear its values.”
The organization has taken similar stances through its championships, prohibiting events in states that display the Confederate battle flag and prohibiting NCAA teams from hosting championship events if their school nicknames use Native American imagery that’s considered offensive.
NCAA president Mark Emmert told USA TODAY Sports earlier this month, “As we continue to move through this very complex landscape of various types of rules and policies around LGBT rights, we’re going to continue to talk to the membership to see where they want to be.”