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  • Nic F. Anderson

HRC Calls Out NCAA Over New Constitution Leaving Out Nondiscrimination Policy Language

Last week, the NCAA ratified its new constitution. It does not include nondiscrimination policy language, despite that it had been a part of previous constitutions. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) immediately responded in a letter.

HRC and Athlete Ally along with other 18 national advocacy groups urged the NCAA to “reinstate and strengthen” nondiscrimination policy language in the new constitution to protect Black and Brown, LGBTQ+, women or any athletes that identify in more than one of the aforementioned groups.

One of the NCAA’s new policy regards the participation of transgender athletes that “raises significant concerns,” according to the HRC.

“While the NCAA says it supports a safe environment for all student-athletes, it has repeatedly failed to take responsibility for ensuring that safe environment in fact exists for LGBTQ+ athletes, women, and athletes of color,” HRC said in a statement.

More than 1,000 NCAA members voted and there were 801 who voted in favor of the new constitution. It was the first major revision of the constitution since 1997, according to the NCAA. The new constitution is to reduce the number of the Board of Governors from 21 to nine, six members from the three divisions (four from Division 1, one from Divisions 2 and one from Division 3), two independent members and one graduated student-athlete. In addition to this, there will be another student-athlete serving on the board but as a non-voting member.

The constitution prohibits pay-for-play but “embraces providing additional educational and other benefits, including those for name, image and likeness. It maintains existing revenue allocations and championship opportunities for each division, and each division will have oversight of its own budget, expenditures and financial distribution to its members. The constitution also underscores the importance of both physical and mental health and emphasizes diversity, inclusion and gender equity,” according to the NCAA.

"This is an important day in college athletics as we continue to evolve to better meet the needs of our student-athletes," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. "I applaud the work of the Constitution Committee and the entire membership for setting a sustainable course for college sports for decades to come."

Despite these changes, which many are calling positive, the nondiscrimination policy language was not included like it was in the past.

Human Rights Interim President Joni Madison said in a statement: “If not through their constitution, the NCAA needs to show us their playbook for protecting LGBTQ+ and specifically transgender athletes from discrimination. The NCAA has so far proven to be an unreliable ally to LGBTQ+ athletes across the country who depend upon the organization to protect them from discrimination and now they owe these athletes answers… Their rollout of this policy has left many athletes and individual sports programs confused, concerned, and uncertain about their own future… The NCAA’s unresponsiveness, unwillingness to re-implement common sense language, and inability to enforce their own policies to protect athletes vulnerable to discrimination are all deeply disappointing and dangerous. We know they are capable of better.”

Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, along with a few other U.S. states, passed legislation that prohibits transgender athletes from playing or participating in sports.

The HRC letter and the NCAA constitution documents are hyperlinked and attached as PDFs at the bottom of this story for your convenience.

See: Letter from HRC to NCAA

See: NCAA’s New Constitution

Letter to NCAA Board of Governors
Download PDF • 97KB

NCAA - Constitution - Approved Jan 2022
Download PDF • 175KB

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