Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. The Buzz on Florida Politics

If Florida transgender sports bill passes, NCAA says it could pull championships

The statement came a day before the Florida House is set to take up the controversial bill.
Stephanie Marty demonstrates against a proposed ban on transgender girls and women from female sports leagues outside the South Dakota governor's mansion in Pierre, S.D. on Thursday March 11, 2021.
Stephanie Marty demonstrates against a proposed ban on transgender girls and women from female sports leagues outside the South Dakota governor's mansion in Pierre, S.D. on Thursday March 11, 2021. [ STEPHEN GROVES | AP ]
Published Apr. 12
Updated Apr. 12

TALLAHASSEE — The National Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Governors said Monday it would consider pulling championships from states that ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports.

The statement came a day before the Florida House is set to take up House Bill 1475, a bill which would do just that.

“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected,” the statement read. “We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”

HB 1475, part of a national push by Christian conservative groups, is one of the most divisive bills making its way through the Legislature this year. Supporters say transgender athletes — who do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth — are a threat to the integrity of female-only competition

Detractors, including many transgender students and equal rights advocates, say the legislation is unnecessary and discriminatory. Supporters of the bill have provided no examples of a transgender athlete unfairly skewing women or girls’ scholastic competition in Florida.

Related: Will Florida’s transgender sports bill hurt business?

It’s not just sports at issue, but the well-being of all transgender Floridians, advocates say. Whether the NCAA pulls championships from the state or not, advocates argue the legislation would hurt an already marginalized group.

“I understand the economic argument. A lot of folks who are unfamiliar with the trans community can understand that faster than they can understand the lived experiences of trans people,” said Nathan Bruemmer, a transgender man and community activist from St. Petersburg. “But the deeper issue is getting behind the dollar signs and getting to know the humanity of who we are.”

Yet make no mistake, Bruemmer noted, the economic consequences of a potential NCAA boycott of Florida would be substantial.

The state has already lined up more than 40 regional or national championship events between the next academic year and May of 2026. They include four notable events at Amalie Arena in Tampa: the Frozen Four ice hockey championship (April ’23), the women’s volleyball finals (December ’23), the Women’s Final Four (spring ’25) and the first and second rounds of the men’s basketball tournament (March ’26).

This fall, Saint Leo University is scheduled to host the Division II cross country regionals and finals, and the University of Tampa is set to host the D-II volleyball finals.

It’s unclear how much the NCAA’s statement will influence Republicans. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, who chairs the House Education and Employment committee, said the sports organization had too much to lose by pulling events out of Florida.

“The NCAA cares about one thing and it is not student-athletes,” said Latvala, a supporter of HB 1475, in a text message. “It is money. They are not going to boycott Florida.”

Last week at a meeting of Latvala’s committee, multiple Republicans noted the organization’s high-profile failure to provide equal accommodations for men and women during the recent NCAA Division I basketball championships. The organization has no place to tell others how to govern gender equality, Latvala said.

The legislation banning transgender athletes from women’s sports has the backing of Florida’s top Republican leaders: House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor; Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Senate version of measure, Senate Bill 2012, differs slightly from the legislation the House will take up Tuesday. The Senate bill would allow transgender athletes to participate if they can show they have testosterone levels below the International Olympic Committee standard.

That’s not quite the same standard as the NCAA’s. The college sports governing body’s rules say that transgender athletes have to take testosterone suppressants for one year before being cleared to compete in women’s sports.

The Senate bill was set to be heard in its final committee stop Wednesday. But hours after the NCAA’s statement, a spokeswoman for Simpson tweeted that the committee’s agenda was too busy for the bill to be heard this week.

Times staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Florida Legislature coverage

Get updates via text message: ConText, our free text messaging service about politics news, brings you the latest from this year's Florida legislative session.

Sign up for our newsletter: Get Capitol Buzz, a special bonus edition of The Buzz with Steve Contorno, each Saturday while the Legislature is meeting.

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news from the state’s legislative session. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.