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NCAA says it’s thinking about pulling March Madness games from Idaho due to anti-trans law

The NCAA issued a statement Monday reiterating its opposition to HB500, which will bar trans student-athletes from competing in accordance with their gender identities.

Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Tournament - First Round Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With Idaho’s ban on trans female competition in women’s sports set to go into effect July 1, the NCAA doubled down on its opposition to the discriminatory legislation.

In a statement Thursday, The NCAA responded to a letter signed by multiple civil rights organizations and star athletes requesting that it not hold events scheduled to take place in Idaho with tacit support.

The organization reiterated that House Bill 500 is “harmful to transgender student-athletes and conflicts with the NCAA’s core values of inclusivity, respect and the equitable treatment of all individuals.”

The letter directly referenced the first and second round NCAA men’s basketball tournament games scheduled for March 2021 in Boise. But any barring of future events held in the state could potentially affect the NCAA women’s basketball tournament and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

While no decision was made regarding whether the NCAA would pull events out of Idaho, the statement pointed out that its policy “requires host sites to demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

The NCAA will determine the best course of action when its Board of Governors meets in August.

Here’s the NCAA’s full statement:

As we have previously stated, Idaho’s House Bill 500 and resulting law is harmful to transgender student-athletes and conflicts with the NCAA’s core values of inclusivity, respect and the equitable treatment of all individuals. Further, Board of Governors policy requires host sites to demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event. As such, the NCAA Board of Governors was scheduled to discuss the legislation and its implications to student-athletes at its August meeting. NCAA championships are open to everyone, and the Association is committed to assuring that its events are safe and healthy for all who attend. It is our clear expectation that all NCAA student-athletes will be welcomed, treated with respect, and have nondiscriminatory participation wherever they compete.

The threat of massive financial losses for the state should the NCAA honor the request of those opposing Idaho House Bill 500 isn’t lost on local leaders. According to Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau director Carrie Westergard, Boise businesses raked in $15 million when the city hosted NCAA men’s basketball tournament games in 2018.

“We definitely do not want to lose business like the NCAA that has a huge impact to our community,” Westergard told Boise State Public Radio.

Idaho State Representative Barbara Ehardt, House Bill 500’s sponsor, wouldn’t comment on any potential financial losses hinging on the outcome of the NCAA’s deliberations. She chose instead to admonish the women, including Megan Rapinoe, Sue Bird and Billie Jean King, who signed the opposing letter. “It’s disappointing because particularly looking at the women on this letter, these women benefited, absolutely benefited from Title IX,” Ehardt told Boise State Public Radio.

There is precedent for the NCAA deciding to pull events from states in response to discriminatory legislation. The organization pulled NCAA basketball tournament games and the ACC Football Championship game out of North Carolina in 2017 in response to the proposed trans-discriminatory “Bathroom Bill” HB2.