On Monday, the NCAA Board of Governors announced it would relocate seven championship events from North Carolina this year over concerns about state laws that limit civil rights protections. The Board's decision emphasized that NCAA events must promote an inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans, and that current North Carolina laws make it difficult to fulfill that commitment.
As I know from my more than 16 years with the NCAA, where I currently serve as vice chair of the Board of Governors and co-chair the ad hoc committee on diversity and inclusion, the Association's leadership is selective about the issues in which it gets involved. Why was this so important to us?
The NCAA is committed to fairness, not just on the playing field, but in providing a safe and respectful environment for all its athletes, coaches and fans. The NCAA constitution clearly states our values of inclusion and gender equity, along with the membership's expectation that we protect those values for all.
What's happening in North Carolina now makes it hard to do that within the state. State laws can prevent cities and counties from prohibiting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals. They can provide legal protection for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community. Public schools require bathrooms and locker rooms be used only by individuals based on their biological sex, not gender identity.
In addition, five states - New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut -- and numerous cities prohibit travel to North Carolina for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include student-athletes and athletic staff.
This is not the first time the NCAA has taken steps to ensure its championship environment is consistent with its values. The NCAA already bans championships in states where governments display the Confederate flag or authorize sports betting, or at schools that use hostile and abuse Native American imagery.
In April, the NCAA Board of Governors adopted a new requirement for sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events in all divisions - from Final Fours to leadership development conferences - to ensure we provide an environment that treats everyone with fairness and respect. Cities interested in hosting NCAA championships completed a survey this summer requiring them to provide information about any local anti-discrimination laws, provisions for refusal of services and other facility-specific information. We're reviewing those responses now, but it's clear that North Carolina laws make it difficult for host cities to deliver on that requirement.
If we're truly committed to the well-being of our student-athletes and to promoting an inclusive atmosphere for all our participants and fans, we must act in accordance with those beliefs. Anyone at an NCAA championship event - whether they're playing, working or cheering - deserves to be treated with fairness and respect.
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