Title IX

Women’s basketball podcast ‘Hardwood HERstory’ aims to inspire and educate

Niele Ivey celebrates after winning the NCAA women's basketball title in 2001
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By Zora Stephenson

What’s going on everybody. Zora Stephenson here. A has-been hooper (although I’m still confident in my jumper) and the host of one of NBC Sports’ latest podcasts, “Hardwood HERstory.” The purpose of the pod is to tell the stories of athletes who changed women’s basketball. And despite the fact that they all had a non-negotiable impact on the game, you probably haven’t heard of some of them.

That’s why we’re here. Some people give back to the sport through coaching or working for a team. I give back to the game through storytelling. Hardwood HERstory is a labor of love, here’s a list of things you can look forward to if you start listening:

1) Lusia “Lucy” Harris is in the Hall of Fame. The first woman to score a basket at the Olympics for USA Basketball, she led Delta State to three college championships and was drafted by an NBA team. Growing up people used to tease Lucy. They would say, long and tall and that’s all. She then went back to them after all her success and said, long and tall and that’s NOT all. Love it!!!

2) Ann Meyers Drysdale (also a Hall of Famer) probably played pickup with either your favorite basketball player or your parent’s favorite basketball player. She has stories for days and was kind enough to share some of them. A walking women’s basketball encyclopedia. Want to simply learn more about the history of the game? Listen to this episode!!

3) Dee Kantner. This is the episode where you laugh. We asked Dee Kantner to join the podcast because she was one of the first women to referee in the NBA. That’s why you’ll start listening, but you’ll keep listening because she shares a referee’s perspective on calls (and missing calls), how she went from engineer to ‘Hardwood HERstory’, and the bees she has to keep up with off the court. Pure entertainment!

4) Years into Niele Ivey‘s coaching career, Muffet McGraw and the Notre Dame Athletics administration saw her as the future of the school’s women’s basketball program. Now that she’s stepped into the head role, Coach Ivey talks about what it took to get there, what it means to lead her alma mater, her coaching philosophy, and her time in the NBA. Coach Ivey also gives the full scouting report on her son Jaden, who was scooped up by the Detroit Pistons as the fifth overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. An inspiring episode for anyone who has a dream and wants to listen to someone who made it happen. Muffet McGraw chimes in too.

5) Elizabeth Williams had her jersey retired at Duke University, she was the WNBA’s most improved player in 2016, she led the Atlanta Dream and the WNBA as they campaigned against the team’s owner in the Georgia Senate race, and when her playing career is over, she has dreams of being a doctor. Talk about doing it all! Elizabeth also happens to be my best friend and it was so cool to interview her. To me, this episode is about a talented basketball player who finally found her voice off the court.

6) Allison Galer owns Disrupt The Game, an agency that only represents female athletes, mostly women’s basketball players. Alison shares why representing women is her calling, the goals she has for her company, and all she does as an agent.

If you need more reasons to listen, just let me know! Basketball is about so much more than putting a ball in a hoop. Within those four lines, there are stories of triumph, victory, success, and resilience. We can all relate to that. Want greatness to rub off on you? Listen to Hardwood HERstory.

Hardwood HERstory is available for download on all major podcast platforms, including: NBCSports.com/podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Podcasts, iHeart, and Pandora. Episode one featuring Lusia “Lucy” Harris is also embedded above. 

Zora Stephenson played college basketball at Elon University. She works as a sideline reporter for the Milwaukee Bucks and also covers the Olympics and USFL for NBC Sports. You can follow her on Twitter @ZoraStephenson.

On 50th anniversary of Title IX, USOPC seeks agreement on transgender policy

LGBT Flag With Olympic Rings
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The biggest gathering of the year for U.S. Olympic policymakers fell on Thursday, the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Not surprisingly, one of the most urgent debates behind closed doors was what the future of the law might mean for transgender athletes in sports.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee board members are trying to define their federation’s role in the discussion, as states and high school athletic committees in the U.S., along with global bodies that run swimming, rugby and, soon, possibly track and field, press forward with their own policy changes.

“This is one where there is not easy alignment,” board chair Susanne Lyons said. “It’s not our role to actually set the policy. But the question is, what should the USOPC be doing on this, and we agree that we should have an articulated point of view.”

It could take months to develop a policy, which will likely come in the form of recommendations that will not be binding.

USA Swimming is already scrambling after introducing its own policy only to see the international swimming federation, FINA, put out its own guidelines that were essentially opposite of the American organization’s rules. FINA’s rules only permits swimmers who transitioned before age 12 to compete in women’s events. USA Swimming’s rules required athletes to show evidence of testosterone levels of less than 5 nanomoles per liter for a minimum period of 36 months.

Also on Thursday, the Biden Administration proposed new rules that would enshrine the rights of LGBTQ students under Title IX. More specific rules dealing with the rights of transgender students in school sports will be released later.

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: Title IX is 50 years old. Why aren’t schools complying with the law?

All this comes as states are stepping in to regulate rules regarding transgender sports. Laws restricting transgender participation in female sports have been passed in no fewer than 19 states over the past two years.

On the international level, the IOC implemented a new framework in March to guide policy for transgender sports. It suggested that international federations (IFs) in each sport set their own rules based on science and the specific nature of the sports themselves.

That left many of the more than four dozen organizations that run the individual sports in the United States waiting for guidance from the IFs. The USOPC is the umbrella organization that oversees them.

Speaking at the USOPC’s annual assembly, Lyons said that although nothing the USOPC would come up with would be binding, it has a role as a national leader in sports to draft a policy.

It’s a difficult task, especially given the makeup of the board, which includes advocates on both sides of the issue — those who would like to see full inclusion for transgender athletes in women’s sports and those who want to protect the space that Title IX carved out for women.

“No one’s really coming and begging us for our point of view,” Lyons said. “But on the other hand, we’re the leaders of the Olympic movement in the U.S., so we have to have a point of view. And it’s not necessarily going to be a point of view that’s 100% aligned with everyone’s opinion.”

RELATED: Nine (or so) to know on the 50th anniversary of Title IX

Biden administration proposes new rules to protect LGBTQ+ students under Title IX

LGBTQ rights supporters gather at the Texas State Capitol to protest state Republican-led efforts to pass legislation that would restrict the participation of transgender student athletes.
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The rights of LGBTQ students would become enshrined in federal law and victims of campus sexual assault would gain new protections under rules proposed by the Biden administration on Thursday.

The proposal, announced on the 50th anniversary of the Title IX women’s rights law, is intended to replace a set of controversial rules issued during the Trump administration by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

President Joe Biden’s education secretary, Miguel Cardona, said that even though there have been significant strides toward gender equality, discrimination and sexual violence persist.

“Even as we celebrate all the progress we’ve achieved, standing up for equal access and inclusion is as important as ever before,” he said.

The proposal is almost certain to be challenged by conservatives, and it is expected to lead to new legal battles over the rights of transgender students in schools, especially in sports. It now faces a public feedback period before the administration can finalize any changes, meaning the earliest the policy is likely to take effect is next year.

The step meets a demand from victims rights advocates who wanted Biden to release new rules no later than the anniversary of Title IX, which outlaws discrimination based on sex in schools and colleges. Advocates say DeVos’ rules have gone too far in protecting students accused of sexual misconduct, at the expense of victims.

As a presidential candidate, Biden had promised a quick end to DeVos’ rules, saying they would “shame and silence survivors.”

In announcing its proposal, Biden’s Education Department said DeVos’ rules “weakened protections for survivors of sexual assault and diminished the promise of an education free from discrimination.”

For the first time, the rules would formally protect LGBTQ students under Title IX. Nothing in the 1972 law explicitly addresses the topic, but the new proposal would clarify that the law applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It would make clear that “preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX,” according to the department. More specific rules dealing with the rights of transgender students in school sports will be released later, the department said.

Biden marked the anniversary of Title IX by acknowledging the impact the law has had in advancing equity but acknowledging there was more to do.

“As we look to the next 50 years, I am committed to protecting this progress and working to achieve full equality, inclusion, and dignity for women and girls, LGBTQI+ Americans, all students, and all Americans,” he said in a statement.

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: Title IX is 50 years old. Why aren’t schools complying with the law?

Many of the proposed changes would restore Obama-era rules that DeVos’ policy replaced.

The definition of sexual harassment would be expanded to cover a wider range of misconduct. Schools would be required to address any allegation that creates a “hostile environment” for students, even if the misconduct arises off campus. Most college employees, including professors and coaches, would be required to notify campus officials if they learn of potential sex discrimination.

In a victory for victims rights advocates, the proposal would eliminate a rule requiring colleges to hold live hearings to investigate sexual misconduct cases — one of the most divisive aspects of DeVos’ policy. Live hearings would be allowed under the new rules, but colleges could also appoint campus officials to question students separately.

Biden’s action drew praise from victims rights groups, LGBTQ advocates and Democratic lawmakers.

“These proposed regulations demonstrate a strong commitment to protecting educational opportunities for all students including LGBTQ students,” said Janson Wu executive director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. “Especially in light of ongoing state legislative attacks, we are grateful for the administration’s strong support of LGBTQ youth.”

Republicans in Congress were quick to denounce the proposal. Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, said the rules will “demolish due process rights and the safety of young women and girls across the country, with promised regulations still to come to undermine women’s access to athletic opportunities.”

In a letter to Cardona on Thursday, attorneys general in 18 Republican-led states pushed against protections for transgender students, saying it would “destroy women’s sports.” The group, led by Montana and Indiana, vowed to fight the changes “with every available tool in our arsenal.”

“American women and girls deserve better,” the attorneys general wrote. “And if this Administration won’t commit to protecting women’s rights under Title IX, rest assured, we will.”

If the proposal is finalized, it would mark the second rewrite of federal Title IX rules in two years. DeVos’ rules were themselves intended to reverse Obama-era guidance. The Obama policy was embraced by victims advocates but led to hundreds of lawsuits from accused students who said their colleges failed to give them a fair process to defend themselves.

The whiplash has left many schools scrambling to adopt ever-changing rules. Some have pressed for a political middle ground that will protect students without prompting new rules every time the White House changes power.

“It doesn’t serve anybody’s interest to have this ping-pong effect of changing rules every five years,” said S. Daniel Carter, a campus security consultant and president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses. “That’s just not a good way to get things done. It’s very difficult for everyone involved.”

DeVos’ rules dramatically reshaped the way colleges handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment, with an emphasis on ensuring the constitutional due process rights of the accused.

Under her rules, accused students were given wider rights to review and respond to evidence against them, and students had the right to cross-examine one another through a representative at live hearings.

The live hearing requirement was applauded as a victory for accused students, but it drew intense backlash from other advocates who said it forced victims to relive their trauma.

DeVos also reduced colleges’ obligations in responding to complaints. Her policy narrowed the definition of harassment and scaled back the types of cases colleges are required to address. As a result, some campuses have seen steep decreases in the number of Title IX complaints coming in from students.

Under her rules, for example, colleges are not required to investigate most complaints that arise off campus, and they do not have to act on any complaint unless the alleged misconduct is “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.”

The overhaul was partly meant to lighten the burden on colleges as they mediate complex cases, but some say it ultimately added more work.

Leaders of some colleges have said the DeVos rules are too prescriptive and force them to turn campus discipline systems into miniature courtrooms. Many schools have continued to address all sexual misconduct complaints even if they do not meet the narrowed harassment definition, but they have had to set up separate discipline processes to handle those cases.

Advocates on both sides say that can be confusing for students.

“It shouldn’t be that way. It should be, if anything, more uniform — that’s the whole reason the Title IX regulations were put into place,” said Kimberly Lau, a New York lawyer who represents students in Title IX cases.

Biden’s proposal is a major step in keeping his promise to reverse DeVos’ rules. He started the process last year when he ordered the Education Department to review the rules, but the agency has been bogged down by a slow-moving rule-making process.

RELATED: Nine (or so) to know on the 50th anniversary of Title IX