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SPLC Denounces NAIA’s Discriminatory Policy, Calls on NCAA to Uphold Inclusivity

ATLANTA — Following a years-long campaign by far-right extremists and hate groups targeting transgender people, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) changed their policies to ban transgender women athletes from competing in women’s sports earlier this week.

As the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and other sports associations face pressure from hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls on the NCAA to uphold an inclusive policy that allows all players to be able to fully participate.

“NAIA has historically understood the importance of access to competitive sports but has now codified discriminating against and harming trans people as organizational goals,” says Rachel Carroll Rivas, Interim Director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project.

Public support for LGBTQ+ inclusion is still widespread, but a patchwork of state laws has denied civil and human rights to communities across the country, including in the Deep South. However, Georgia’s 2024 legislative session stood out, as nearly 20 proposed anti-LGBTQ+ bills were defeated – including a ban on trans students participating in sports.

“The SPLC encourages associations, businesses and public entities not to be intimidated by the transphobic pressure campaign exerted by anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups,” adds Scott McCoy, Deputy Legal Director for SPLC’s Inclusion & Anti-Extremism Litigation Team. “School-based sports programs encourage teamwork, discipline, self-esteem, and healthy lifestyles – attributes all students need to become successful adults and productive members of society. We call on the NAIA to reconsider and reverse this unnecessarily cruel attack on transgender students who just want to live and compete as their authentic selves.”

The SPLC has previously identified a network of more than 60 groups that generate anti-LGBTQ+ pseudoscience and share misinformation about LGBTQ+ people. Anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups falsely claim that transgender athletes, including student athletes, represent a threat to cisgender women and girls. They are attempting to demonize transgender people by creating a wedge between the LGBTQ+ community and their civil rights allies.

“Hate groups have been disingenuous in their claims of support for women’s rights. Instead, these groups use sports bans that aim to divide our civil rights coalitions. They won’t win. We see hope in the leadership of some of the most successful coaches and organizations, such as Dawn Staley and the USWNT Players Association, who are elevating their game and bringing in record crowds while supporting the LGBTQ+ community,” said Carroll Rivas.


  • The work of groups like the American College of Pediatricians undermines the global medical consensus about trans identity and gender-affirming healthcare.
  • Hate groups use pseudoscience to justify anti-trans policies like excluding gender identity from federal Title IX protections, banning trans athletes from sports, eliminating access to LGBTQ+-affirming healthcare, and restricting information about LGBTQ+ people and their experiences in public schools.
  • Groups like Alliance Defending Freedom attempt to encode anti-LGBTQ+ pseudoscience into law and public policy by suing public schools over inclusive education practices that protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination and bullying.