Lexi Rodgers, a trans woman basketball player seeking to play in Australia’s semi professional NBL1 competition, was denied eligibility by a panel commissioned by Basketball Australia Monday.
The ruling comes amid recent outcry on the issue for and against her application to play as news that a then-unnamed player, which became public in late March, began to leak across social media.
Basketball Australia stated that their panel of sports medicine specialists, officials and former players, which included three-time Australian Olympic medalist and former Seattle Storm forward-center Suzy Batkovic, assessed Rodgers’ eligibility on, what a statement from BA called, “a range of factors.”
Basketball Australia did not publicly disclose what those factors were or disclose the reasons behind this specific decision.
“As the governing body, we acknowledge we’re still on a path of education and understanding,” the BA statement read. “To aid us in developing our framework, Lexi will provide feedback and advice from her experiences. The balance of inclusivity, fairness and the competitive nature of sport will always be a complex area to navigate.”
Batkovic, quoted via the statement, noted, “As we continue to develop our own framework for sub-elite and elite competitions, we understand the need to have a clear process and continual education within all layers of the sport so we can best support players, coaches, clubs, associations and the wider basketball community. I also want to make it clear because it’s important, that while this particular application was not approved based on criteria for elite competition, Basketball Australia encourages and promotes inclusivity at community level.”
Rodgers, who had been working out with the NBL1 South Kilsyth Cobras with hopes of being a part of the team nestled in the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne, stated her disappointment on her Instagram Tuesday.
“I sought a different outcome from Basketball Australia,” she wrote. “I hope Basketball Australia understands that this is not the end of my journey as an athlete and that it must not miss future opportunities to demonstrate its values. I am sad about the potential message this decision sends to trans and gender diverse people everywhere.”
Since first publicly discussing her desire to play for the Cobras on the “Under the Surface with Anneli Maley” podcast on March 29, opinions have been sharply divided.
Two-time Australian Olympian and 14-year NBA veteran Andrew Bogut, who has been vocal in Australian media against transgender inclusion in sport in general, and against this case in particular, was supportive of Monday’s decision.
“Right decision by Basketball Australia,” Bogut noted via Twitter. “In saying that, it is beyond alarming we live in a time where an ‘expert panel’ is needed to make these decisions.”
Two-sport pioneer and transgender advocate Kirsti Miller criticized the decision the decision on her Twitter.
“I know Basketball Australia haven’t done their homework here,” she explained. “This ban on Lexi will result in a blanket ban once an exemption is granted. It needs to be challenged in court. How can Lexi be unsafe and have an unfair advantage in elite women’s basketball but not at the grassroots level? This decision makes no sense definitely not if it’s about safety.”
Miller also pointed out the governing body’s lack of explanation in contrast to the policies of the Australian Football League where a case-by-case process based on performance aggregates of all AFLW participants is outlined in detail. Basketball Australia, by their own admission, is still building a more comprehensive framework.
Rodgers said that the decision is not an ending for her.
“I hope to one day be playing elite women’s basketball in the future and will continue to work on making the sport I love a place for all,” she said.