I guarantee that LGBTQI students at the roughly 65 NCAA member schools with anti-LGBTQI policies are not surprised by the NCAA’s announcement this week that the changeover from HB2 to HB142 — what is seen by many as a fake repeal — provides a “minimal achievement” such that they will bring back championship games to North Carolina.
The NCAA has allowed for member schools with anti-woman and anti-LGBTQI policies, based on discriminatory theology, for decades while looking the other way. At least 30 of those schools actively sought Title IX exemptions in recent years.
Liberty University, host of the Big South Conference women’s basketball championship three weeks ago, was recently granted the Title IX exemption to expel students who get an abortion but denied other requests regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Formal Title IX exemption or not, they will continue to discriminate and silence their LGBTQI students.
When we lifted a banner at the game at our Liberty University Give Back IX action, one anonymous student could only go on record anonymously, saying:
"I want my school to be a place of constant learning. Students should be able to focus on their academics and grow into the adults they want to be without having politics constantly looming above their heads. Liberty should value God and its students over anything else--valuing people is far more important than valuing politics."
We share that sentiment in response to the NCAA’s announcement of its return to North Carolina. “Minimal achievement” means minimal solidarity. The NCAA had an enormous amount of social and political capital afforded it, and it chose the road that is better for business and politics, not students.
In all the discussion of HB2 in North Carolina, SB6 in Texas, and the four other states considering similar bills, the stories of the lives of LGBTQI students and athletes on campus sometimes gets lost.
No one’s talking about how anti-LGBTQI Title IX exemptions push sexual assault underground.
No one’s talking about how teammates feel removed and erased for their four years playing soccer because no one on their team knew who they truly are.
No one’s talking about the stressful toll it takes to hide your identity on campus, maintain your GPA, and avoid punishment.
That’s why we showed up again with banner and bright t-shirts, pushing our way through the wall of police to hoist a message of solidarity, hope, and relentless commitment to justice at the Women’s Final Four on Sunday in Dallas.
The NCAA’s own house isn’t in order. They are complicit with Christian schools that are often the proving ground for religious discrimination strategies that state legislatures borrow. NCAA member schools have been carving out pockets for legal bigotry as long as there has been a Title IX.
For us, this was never just about where the moneyed championship games are held. This is about the hundreds of other games that lead up to the Final Four and how unsafe the students and venues are on Christian campuses and the dissonance between the NCAA’s stated principles and student realities.
Now that we know where the NCAA stands on HB2: Even at its most powerful, even when it has started to take some brave steps in the right direction, they can turn on us.
We can now return to this foundational question:
NCAA, do you call your members to higher standards on behalf of all students whose rights, dignity, and worth have been threatened? Or is fair play only for some?
Haven Herrin is the executive director of Soulforce. You can find more information at their Web site, soulforce.org. You can find a list of the worst campuses for LGBTQI students, many of them in the NCAA, on Campus Pride’s Shame List.