As NCAA Strong-Arms States Over Trans Athletes, Florida Legislature Promises Retaliation

AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb, File

The college athletics governing body may not have the leverage they expected.

There is a mounting controversy in college athletics as the National Collegiate Athletic Association has not only taken a stern position on allowing trans athletes to participate, it is making the bold statement that it intends to enforce punishments against states which may pass laws preventing such participation. 

Florida, which is seen as the most likely to currently pass such a law, is not exactly cowering at the veiled threat. It is taking the fight to the NCAA with a new dose of legislation promising its own retribution should such an act play out. Should the NCAA decide to pull championship hosting rights or other events due to a law, then the Florida legislature will see fit to pull tax dollars from going to the organization, or any business entity boycotting the state over the law.

It has been one of the oddest socio-political fights in this country as people take up sides regarding trans athletes in organized sports. How the same groups who loudly tout fairness and equity on behalf of females also forward an agenda that would force biologically advantaged competitors onto female athletics is forever a mystery. To underscore how injurious this can be — and that it is not a bias against the trans athletes specifically — note how there is never an issue with a biological female transitioning to a male who is impacting male athletics.

As a number of states are undertaking legislation to offer support and/or protection to collegiate female athletics the NCAA has been making rumblings that it could take reflexive action against those states taking up any bills on the matter. 

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

One state legislator, Chris Latvala, from outside the Tampa area, answered back to the NCAA with a comment about misplaced priorities. The governing body seems to have fluid standards on the topic of what type of environments it has provided for athletes.

The problem for the NCAA is that this may not be as easy of an act of retribution as they hope. It could be as many as 30 or so states which are considering some form of legislation addressing the trans athlete issue, which would severely curtail the options for the NCAA to move or select locations. Another ongoing issue would be colleges that see female athletes opting for other schools when a trans athlete is permitted to participate in their chosen discipline. 

Florida, which is considered to be the state that primarily provoked the statement from the NCAA, has now moved to a reactive action should that governing body decide to punish the state in regards to a trans athlete law. There has been ongoing legislation being crafted in the legislature over athletes being able to earn money off of their name and likeness, and this new approach has arrived in the form of an amendment. 

State funds may not be used to join or maintain membership in an association whose decisions or proposed decisions are a result of, or in response to, actions proposed or adopted by the Legislature, if such decisions or proposed decisions will result in a negative fiscal impact to the state,” reads the new passage. As state Representative Jay Trumbull, who wrote the amendment explains, “We don’t want to stand or allow an association that uses our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to inflict financial retribution on the taxpayers of Florida.” 

This is a cagey move, one that echoes something seen in the Georgia legislature in reaction to the negative criticisms over its voting law. Following Delta Airlines coming forward with harsh rebukes in the press about the law, the lawmakers moved to pass a bill stating that the company was not so in need of the tax breaks being offered to it by the state it was loudly criticizing. This is a great response to those entities thinking they can hold a state hostage with threats of social activist retribution.