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Amid Attacks, NCAA Leadership 'Unequivocally' Supports Transgender Athletes

"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."

Foot race for women at the Kentucky Relays at the University of Kentucky with outdoor track and field. (Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Women collegiate runners take off from the starting line during a race at the 2015 Kentucky Relays on May 2, 2015. (Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) 

Taking aim at states whose Republican-controlled legislatures and GOP governors have passed or proposed laws that discriminate against transgender people, the NCAA board of governors on Monday issued a statement supporting trans student-athletes and vowing to hold championships only in places "free of discrimination."

"Inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport. Our clear expectation as the association's top governing body is that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect."
—NCAA board of governors 

The highest governing body in collegiate athletics said it "firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports."

"This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition," the statement says, citing a "long-standing policy that provides a more inclusive path for transgender participation in college sports."

"Inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport," the statement continues. "Our clear expectation as the association's top governing body is that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect."

"We are committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them," it says. "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."

"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," the statement adds. 

The board's move comes amid a nationwide wave of attacks on transgender rights. The ACLU lists over 50 bills and laws in 31 states that seek to or, if passed, actually exclude trans youth from athletics. Additionally, the civil liberties group lists proposed or approved legislation to prohibit healthcare for transgender youth in 20 states. 

Last month, Mississippi and Arkansas became the first two states to ban transgender student-athletes from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity.

Last week, the Arkansas Legislature overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto of a bill that block doctors from providing gender-affirming healthcare or referring patients for such care.

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