Citing ‘fairness in competition,’ NAIA effectively bans transgender athletes from women’s sports 

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes’ (NAIA) Council of Presidents voted unanimously Monday to adopt a new policy effectively banning transgender athletes from participating in…

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes’ (NAIA) Council of Presidents voted unanimously Monday to adopt a new policy effectively banning transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports.

The NAIA regulates athletics for mostly small colleges, presiding over approximately 83,000 collegiate athletes in the U.S.

Monday’s vote comes nearly two years after the Council appointed a task force to review the NAIA’s existing policy for transgender athletes and determine whether any changes were needed. The new policy is set to take effect Aug. 1.

“We know there are a lot of opinions, and a lot of people have a very emotional reaction to this, and we want to be respectful of all that,” NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr told the Associated Press. “But we feel like our primary responsibility is fairness in competition, so we are following that path. And we’ve tried as best we could to allow for some participation by all.” 

The new policy stipulates that all student athletes may participate in men’s sports. However, only biological females who have not started “masculinizing hormone therapy” may participate in women’s sports. Biological females who have begun such hormone therapy will only be allowed to participate in “activities that are internal to the institution.” Further, they may only participate in external competition if it isn’t a “countable contest as defined by the NAIA.” 

It also stipulates that “such participation is at the discretion of the NAIA member institution where the student is enrolled,” potentially leaving the door open for individual institutions to make their own determinations for these internal activities. 

Finally, there is a carve out allowing anyone to participate in dance and competitive cheer, noting these sports differ from others which favor “some combination of strength, speed, and stamina, providing competitive advantages for male student-athletes.” 

Now, the NAIA joins several other governing sports bodies and at least 23 states that have enacted some level of restriction on biological males who wish to participate in female sports. 

The issue of men competing in women’s sports has been hotly debated for several years, but has more recently come to a head, especially with more prominent female athletes such as Riley Gaines speaking out and pushing back. 

In March, Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer, and 15 other female collegiate athletes filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA over its policy allowing men to compete with women in NCAA sports and use female locker rooms. 

“It’s official,” Gaines posted on X. “I’m suing the NCAA along with 15 other collegiate athletes who have lost out on titles, records, & roster spots to men posing as women. The NCAA continues to explicitly violate the federal civil rights law of Title IX. About time someone did something about it.” 

The lawsuit was reportedly organized by the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS) and aims to make biological males ineligible to participate in women’s sports. It also asks the NCAA to “reassign” awards won by biological males competing against females to their female counterparts. The suit also seeks “damages for pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, suffering and anxiety, expense costs and other damages due to defendants’ wrongful conduct.” 

“By challenging the NCAA’s draconian and discriminatory policies, we’re sending a clear message: the integrity of women’s sports is non-negotiable,” Kim Jones, ICONS co-founder, collegiate tennis All-American and former U.S. National Team member said. 

“We are committed to defending the hard-won rights of women athletes everywhere. This isn’t just a legal battle; it’s a moral stand for equality and justice in sports.” 

The NAIA’s Carr also defended his organization’s decision in light of Title IX, which targets discrimination based on sex. 

“For us, we believed our first responsibility was to create fairness and competition in the NAIA,” he told CBS Sports. “We also think it aligns with the reasons Title IX was created. You’re allowed to have separate but equal opportunities for women to compete.”