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Statement comes on heels of call to pull games from Idaho

The National Collegiate Athletic Association plans to discuss an Idaho law barring transgender girls and women from playing on female high school and college sports teams at the August meeting of its Board of Governors.

On Wednesday more than 400 student-athletes, 48 current and retired professional athletes and about 60 advocacy groups sent the NCAA letters asking it not to hold any events in Idaho due to House Bill 500, also known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. All three letters gave the example of North Carolina, where the NCAA moved championship games out of the state in 2016 in response to a law regulating transgender bathroom use. Should the NCAA heed this call, it would mean moving the first and second round March 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship games that are scheduled to be held at Boise State University.

A 2018 KIVI-TV news report said that the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated the impact of all the basketball teams and fans coming to Boise for that year’s NCAA Tournament games was close to $15 million.

The NCAA didn’t say in its statement Thursday whether it plans to move the 2021 games out of Boise. However, it did reiterate its previously stated opposition to the bill, saying it is “harmful to transgender student-athletes and conflicts with the NCAA’s core values of inclusivity, respect and the equitable treatment of all individuals.”

NCAA policy requires transgender female athletes to receive a year of hormone therapy before they can compete on women’s teams, and the current policy of the Idaho High School Activities Association (House Bill 500 takes effect on July 1) mirrors this. The NCAA said Thursday that its board “requires host sites to demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

“NCAA championships are open to everyone, and the Association is committed to assuring that its events are safe and healthy for all who attend,” the NCAA said. “It is our clear expectation that all NCAA student-athletes will be welcomed, treated with respect, and have nondiscriminatory participation wherever they compete.”

House Bill 500, which passed the Legislature on mostly party-line votes this year, is being challenged in federal court by the ACLU of Idaho and the feminist group Legal Voice. Its supporters say it protects opportunities from women and girls by keeping them from having to compete against athletes who have advantages from being born male.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.