Sen. Mike Lee Presses NCAA President: Transgender Athlete Policy Detrimental to Women’s Rights

FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2019 file photo, Cromwell High School transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, right, braids the hair of teammate Taylor Santos during a break at a track meet at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn. The federal Office for Civil Rights has launched an investigation into …
AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) pressed president of the NCAA Mark Emmert at a Senate hearing this week about its policy allowing biological men to compete in women’s college sports as transgender women.

“I am concerned about the NCAA’s track record of undermining women by pushing schools to allow individuals born biologically of one gender to participate in another gender’s sports,” Lee said.

“I’m worried about some of the policies that you’ve taken,” Lee said. “It’s offensive to me and to millions of Americans that the great strides that our society has made to protect women’s rights and women’s sports are now at risk at being undone.”

Lee cited the landmark law that was passed in Idaho and is now in effect, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which prevents biological men from competing against women in high school and college sports.

Lee said the NCAA said this kind of law is “harmful to transgender student athletes and conflicting with the NCAA’s core values of inclusivity, respect and equitable treatment of all individuals.” 

“However,” Lee said, “this statement did not speak to the interest of biological female athletes.”

“Do you stand by this statement made by the NCAA?” Lee asked.

“Senator, I do,” Emmert said. “I think it’s an extremely challenging issue, obviously.”

“I’m the first to admit it’s a very, very challenging issue to find the right balance,” Emmert said.

The Deseret News reported on another issue taken up at the hearing:

Lee also questioned Emmert about competing proposals on compensating college athletes to make money on the use of their name, likeness and image.

One plan would give the NCAA, which Lee called the “de facto collegiate athletics cartel,” broad antitrust immunity to come up with its own rules for member schools.

The Power Five conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — are backing a bill that would write the rules into federal law and create a Federal Trade Commission regulatory office funded by a tax on agents that Lee said would inevitably be passed on to the athletes those agents represent.

But while proposals differ, they both ask the federal government to curb competition, Lee said.

“It would be insufficient to merely call it ironic that two groups supposedly dedicated to facilitating literal competition among others are so reticent to engage in competition themselves,” Lee said.

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