NCAA constitution called out for failing to include non-discrimination policy

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As part of a major restructuring of college sports, the NCAA unveiled on Monday a draft of its revised constitution, which would give more power to the three divisions and individual schools. The 18-page draft was produced by the NCAA’s 28-person constitution committee, which is chaired by former U.S. secretary of defense Robert Gates.

While the proposed constitution says it “provides new emphasis on diversity, inclusion and gender equity,” the current draft doesn’t include a non-discrimination policy.

“Where are the protections for LGBTQ+ students? For women? For students of color?” Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Interim President Joni Madison asked in a tweet.

On Friday, HRC and Athlete Ally announced that it had sent an open letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert with two specific demands. The letter, which was signed by Madison and Athlete Ally Founder and Executive Director Hudson Taylor, called on the NCAA to revise its constitution to include “non-discrimination protections for all athletes including on the basis of age, color, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, race, religion, and creed.”

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The current NCAA constitution – in force since August 2021 – includes a non-discrimination section with similar language. In fact, the NCAA first adopted a non-discrimination policy in January 1993 and it has been included in the organization’s governing document ever since.

(The importance of a non-discrimination policy can also be seen in the current NWSL reckoning; the league introduced its first ever anti-harassment policy at the start of the current season.)

The HRC/Athlete Ally letter also demands that the NCAA protect transgender student-athletes by “adopting a policy of refusing to hold championships in states with laws that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, including and especially transgender athletes.”

In 2016, the NCAA pulled championships from host sites in North Carolina after the state passed a discriminatory “bathroom bill.”

But the organization has not taken similar steps in response to a deluge of anti-transgender sports legislation. Ten U.S. states currently have anti-transgender sports bans, either through legislation or executive order: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and South Dakota. The NCAA currently has upcoming championships planned in five of those states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas).

The proposed constitution will be discussed by NCAA members at a virtual convention next week. The constitution committee is then expected to provide its final recommendations to the NCAA’s Board of Governors by December 15. The final constitution will be voted on at the upcoming NCAA Convention in January 2022.

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC