ACLU Accuses Gordon Of 'Grandstanding' On NCAA Policies For Transgender Athletes

The ACLU of Wyoming says Gordon is "grandstanding" by signing a letter Monday urging the NCAA to make its transgender policy fairer to females because it goes against his position that Wyoming's ban on trans female grade-school athletes is "draconian."

CM
Clair McFarland

October 31, 20235 min read

Women in sports activist Riley Gaines, left, and Gov. Mark Gordon.
Women in sports activist Riley Gaines, left, and Gov. Mark Gordon. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Wyoming’s governor was among nine state leaders who signed a Monday letter to a college athletics policy board urging a new policy of fairness in women’s sports.  

“We strongly encourage you to rewrite your Transgender Student Athlete Policy to protect, preserve and encourage fairness in women’s athletics,” reads the letter, a three-page plea to the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s (NCAA) Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.

It urges the committee to adopt a fairness policy preventing transgender athletes from placing female athletes at a natural disadvantage in competition.  

“Policies that allow men and women to compete against one another validate an average male athlete stealing the recognition from a truly remarkable female athlete,” says the letter.  

The committee reviews the NCAA’s fairness policy and recommends changes to the NCAA Board of Governors, the letter says.

The national governing body for each sport sets their respective transgender competition policies, which the letter characterizes as the NCAA dodging accountability and the “chance to guarantee an environment where female college athletes can thrive without the concern of inequities.”  

The letter’s nine signatures are those of Republican state governors, including Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.  

‘Grandstanding’ 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming condemned Gordon’s involvement in a Tuesday statement, accusing him of political grandstanding.  

The group drew attention to a public letter Gordon wrote in March describing Wyoming’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act (Senate File 133) as “overly draconian” and “discriminatory.”

The governor let the bill pass into law without his signature.  

Gordon said in his March letter that the act, which bans males from competing in girls school sports from grades 7-12, invites lawsuits and will keep youths from being included in sports.  

While he said he agrees with the overall goal of fairness for girls, Gordon lamented the law’s blanket ban, saying evaluating transgender athletes on an individual basis would be better. He doubted whether transgender competitive opportunism is a real issue in Wyoming and asked the Legislature to “promote inclusion and equality for all individuals” going forward.  

But This Is College 

Gordon’s spokesman Michael Pearlman said Gordon’s position in signing the letter Monday does agree with what he wrote in his March letter on SF 133, because “he expressed his support for the overall goal of fairness in competitive female sports” in the March letter.  

Pearlman quoted the March letter, where Gordon wrote: “Female athletes deserve to be confident that in competition and perhaps in their quest for athletic scholarships, that their path is free of hesitation.” 

Pearlman said Gordon wants the NCAA to have a role in reviewing its transgender sports policy and recommending changes, and he supports the group taking this chance go “guarantee a fair environment for women’s collegiate sports.”  

Pearlman said it is important to note “the key distinction between highly competitive collegiate athletics, and K-12 sports in Wyoming, where the governor believes in the benefits of participation in athletics for all students, including transgender individuals.”  

‘Fearmongering’ 

The ACLU of Wyoming and the nine governors diverge on this issue.  

“This letter to the NCAA is just another attempt to erase transgender people from society while stirring up support from their base of anti-trans activists with fearmongering tactics and discriminatory rhetoric that harm some of the most vulnerable people in our state,” Libby Skarin, deputy executive director for the ACLU of Wyoming, said in a Tuesday press release.  

The real threats to women’s collegiate sports are underfunding, lack of media coverage, sexist ideologies suggesting women and girls are weak, and a lack of pay equity for coaches and players, Skarin said.  

The ACLU statement says transgender people “belong everywhere — including in sports. But does that mean that trans people should be used in a game of political football?” 

Also, Riley Gaines 

The governors’ Monday letter, conversely, cites the story of Riley Gaines, a top college swimmer who tied with transgender swimmer Lia Thomas.

Gaines has since launched an activism campaign advocating for fairness in women’s sports, privacy in women’s spaces and an end to what she calls the authoritarian silencing of women’s fears and concerns on this issue.  

Gaines spoke last week at the University of Wyoming to a crowd of at least 600 people in an auditorium and overflow rooms.  

“As former competitors, you understand the years of blood, sweat and tears that it takes to succeed at a high level,” reads the Monday letter. “The NCAA has the opportunity to guarantee a fair environment for women’s sports. If you take this opportunity, it will expand the possibilities for so many young women for years to come.”  

The letter urges the NCAA away from allowing “misguided policies,” and discusses biological differences between males and females, such as men’s greater height, musculature and testosterone.  

Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter