Bills that are drawing universal criticism for seeking to ban transgender kids from playing sports in school may cause Florida to forfeit major sporting events.
The discriminatory legislation has been denounced by child welfare groups, bipartisan coalitions of lawmakers nationwide, sports superstars Megan Rapinoe and Dwayne Wade, and is even opposed by the researcher bill sponsors cite to try and justify the legislation. Now, sports organizations are weighing in too. The NCAA, which regulates collegiate student athletics, has called the anti-trans bills “damaging to transgender athletes” and warned that legislation that violates the sporting agency’s long-existing and inclusive sporting participation guidelines may jeopardize that state’s ability to host NCAA events. This after Idaho’s passage of similar legislation prompted 545 student athletes to petition the organization to pull championship events from states that ban transgender athletes. That state’s legislation has been blocked by a federal judge, citing its “likely” unconstitutionality.
The Florida bills are part of a nationally orchestrated campaign that has led to 25+ states introducing legislation despite the lack of problems with existing guidelines. But concerns about the sweeping nature of the bills and the potential economic blowback backlash has led the bills to falter in other states. South Carolina defeated the measure earlier this month and Republican Governors in Utah and South Dakota rejected similar bills.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem sent her state’s bill back to the legislature for amendments, tweeting, “Competing on the national stage means compliance with the national governing bodies that oversee collegiate athletics…While I certainly do not always agree with the actions these sanctioning bodies take, I understand that collegiate athletics requires such a system – a fifty-state patchwork is not workable.” The legislature rejected her edits Monday, ultimately earning Noem’s veto.
The NCAA has taken action in the past to defend LGBTQ rights, most notably leading a boycott of North Carolina in response to their anti-trans “bathroom bill” in 2016 that resulted in nearly $4 billion in lost revenue. The Florida legislature risks plunging the state into a similar situation by needlessly placing trans kids in their political crosshairs. Over the next 5 years, the state is scheduled to host 50 championships, amounting to a $75million+ boon to the economy. The sports agency has said they continue to “closely monitor state bills that impact transgender student athlete participation”, words that should be a harrowing reminder of what’s at stake.
“Simply put: lawmakers in Florida are putting the state’s economy at risk right alongside the health and wellbeing of transgender kids in a move that puts political pandering ahead of the welfare of children,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. “Bills that fly in the face of inclusion and empowerment for all young people are bound to draw the ire of organizations committed to encouraging equitable participation — organizations like the NCAA. Their boycott of championships in North Carolina following the disastrous ‘bathroom bill’ torched the state’s economy and marred its reputation. The trans sports bans moving through the Florida legislature now are senselessly tempting a similar fate. Lawmakers would do well to heed the warnings from North Carolina and stop this legislation in its tracks.”
Equality Florida and allies will hold a press conference in response to the fast tracking of trans sports ban legislation today at 1pET at the Clearwater office of State Representative Chris Latvala. The livestream can be viewed at: https://www.facebook.com/equalityfl.
Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community. Through education, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and lobbying, we are changing Florida so that no one suffers harassment or discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.