(DCNF)—A major athletic association is hosting the 38th National Girls and Women In Sports Day on Capitol Hill Wednesday to “champion” female athletes despite pushing for biological men to compete against women.
The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) will speak with lawmakers about the “ways sport participation is building the leaders of tomorrow, and legislation needed to advance gender equity on and off the field of play,” according to a press release. Danette Leighton, CEO of WSF, said Monday that the event is to “celebrate how far we have come,” yet, the foundation has come out against state legislation protecting women’s sports and supported proposals that would require schools to allow biological men to compete against female athletes.
In 2021, WSF criticized the passage of a Mississippi bill that prohibited male athletes who identified as transgender from competing in women’s sports, according to a press release. WSF argued that Mississippi and states like it “misuse girls and women’s sports” to target transgender athletes.
“All girls. All women. All sports. Society wins when our humanity prevails,” the press release reads.
The group also filed an amicus brief in 2021 against a similar Idaho law passed in 2020, claiming that the law is discriminatory against the “most marginalized” and could have a “devastating impact,” according to a press release.
Happy National Girls & Women in Sports Day® (NGWSD™)! We are excited to be back in D.C. to celebrate this special day, co-founded by WSF, and to advocate for gender equity in sports. #NGWSD2024 #WSF50 https://t.co/DorUFflKud pic.twitter.com/1iM0EGohiI
— Women's Sports Foundation (@WomensSportsFdn) February 7, 2024
The foundation also came out in favor of the Department of Education’s proposed rule that would bar schools from adopting policies that prevent transgender athletes from competing in the category of their choosing in April 2023. WSF cheered the move and claimed that state laws preventing transgender athlete participation “harm the development of both cisgender and transgender girls and women.”
The deadline for public input on the rule was extended to March 2024 after receiving over 150,000 public comments.
“Their co-participation does a disservice to 50 years of progress under Title IX and risks the safety of and fair play for women for the sake of appeasing a small but vocal and well-funded minority. American girls and women deserve better on a day designed to celebrate their achievements,” Sarah Parshall Perry, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and an expert on civil rights, told the DCNF.
Charlie Baker, president of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), is also joining Leighton Wednesday to meet with lawmakers to discuss how to “safeguard and further sport participation opportunities for girls and women,” according to WSF’s press release.
The two organizations have clashed in the past on the issue after the NCAA announced an updated policy in January 2022 that required all biological males to monitor their testosterone levels on a regular basis for at least four weeks before competing in a female sports category, whereas it previously required transgender athletes to be on one testosterone blocker for a year.
WSF claimed the policy did not do enough to protect transgender athletes and argued that the sports association was cowering to pressure following backlash to Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania, who dominated women’s collegiate swimming in the U.S.
“This is an association-wide policy and there are likely other athletes in several sports who have now had their eligibility requirements changed mid-year and perhaps even mid-season,” WSF’s statement reads.
Only a month later, Thomas won the NCAA’s Women’s Championship in the 500-yard freestyle and was nominated in July for the NCAA’s Woman of the Year Award, eventually losing to University of Columbia fencer Sylvie Binder. The NCAA was criticized heavily by female athletes for allowing Thomas to compete and Riley Gaines, a former swimmer from the University of Kentucky who competed against Thomas, claimed that NCAA officials dismissed her concerns about Thomas changing in the women’s locker room.
It is “problematic ” that WSF, which is “known for purportedly championing women’s equality in athletics, has decided it will also push out those exact women in favor of biological men,” Parshall Perry told the DCNF.
WSF and NCAA did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.