College athletics body NAIA bans trans athletes from women’s sports

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics announced Monday that it has barred transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports.

“Only NAIA student-athletes whose biological sex is female may participate in NAIA-sponsored

female sports,” the body said in its announcement of the decision.

The announcement later clarified that “biological sex is defined by distinguishing characteristics and can be supported by birth certificate or signed affidavit.”

Freed-Hardeman guard Quan Lax wearing the championship banner after winning the NAIA men's national championship basketball game, 2src24
The NAIA is banning transgender athletes. AP

The NAIA is an NCAA alternative that governs the athletics for 241 schools, which the Washington Post said are “mostly small and private”.

NAIA president and CEO Jim Carr issued a statement about the transgender ban, which goes into effect on Aug. 1.

“We are unwavering in our support of fair competition for our student-athletes,” Carr said. “It is crucial that NAIA member institutions, conferences, and student-athletes participate in an environment that is equitable and respectful. With input from our member institutions and the Transgender Task Force, the NAIA’s Council of Presidents has confirmed our path forward.”

The question of transgender athletes competing against women came to the forefront during the 2021-22 NCAA swimming season.

Lia Thomas, who had previously competed for three years as a male on the University of Pennsylvania swim team transitioned to female and began setting various school or pool records and ultimately won a national championship in 2022.

The Washington Post said that the NAIA ban has sparked “concerns” that the NCAA might follow suit.

Penn Quakers swimmer Lia Thomas holding a trophy after winning at the NCAA Womens Swimming & Diving Championships
Lia Thomas sparked controversy while swimming at Penn Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Anna Baeth, who is the director of research at Athlete Ally, which advocates for queer sports participation, spoke to the outlet about these fears.

“I think that [the NAIA vote] provides a feeling that the NCAA would have the latitude to do the same,” Baeth said. “I think that that feeling of latitude would be incredibly misguided.”

Last month, a group of women athletes, including a number of swimmers who competed against Thomas, sued the NCAA, seeking a ban of transgender athletes competing in women’s sports.


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