The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, December 21, 2020
Breaking news in the legal challenge to Idaho's law limiting transgender athletes — Your pick for USWNT player of the year — Must-click women's soccer links — Conversation with Tziarra King
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Here at The IX we consider it part of our mission to explore equity in sports, whether it’s Title IX issues, equal pay or access for all. Last week I took a look at soccer player Sarah Fuller, who became the first woman to score in a Power Five football game.
This week we have a bit of breaking news on the equity front: Nearly 200 athletes from across sports joined a friend-of-the-court brief that challenges an Idaho law limiting the rights of transgender athletes.
Among those who have lent their names to the effort are soccer players Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Tziarra King, as well as other current and former athletes including Candace Parker and Meghan Duggan.
The amicus brief was filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today.
“We hope to provide the court with additional context and perspective from some of the biggest names, the biggest named athletes in women’s sports to say, ‘Look, this this law goes against everything that sports stands for in our country. We need to share with the court the benefits that inure from sport, and the harms that befall those who are prevented from or excluded from participation just because of who they are,’” Lambda Legal attorney Carl Charles said.
At issue is Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, HB 500, passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brad Little earlier this year. You can read the law here.
It prevents transgender women and girls from competing in women’s sports in public schools, colleges and universities. The law says that if a person’s gender is questioned, the school must provide proof from a health care provider. The law does not include transgender athletes participating in men’s sports.
The ACLU challenged the law as discriminatory, and a federal judge in Idaho granted an injunction preventing it from going into effect while the case played out. But a conservative Christian group called Alliance Defending Freedom appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed its own friend-of-the-court brief in November defending Idaho’s law.
“The Constitution does not require States to abandon their efforts to provide biological girls and women with equal opportunity to participate in and enjoy the life-long benefits that flow from interscholastic athletics. The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act protects equal athletic opportunities for girls and women and permits all persons fairly to participate in sports,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
For background, the NCAA does not ban transgender athletes from participating in sports, however, it does require transgender women to take testosterone suppressing drugs to compete on a women’s team. This is essentially the same requirement that is being imposed on 800-meter specialist Caster Semenya, which she continues to appeal.
LAMBDA Legal collaborated in the brief with Athlete Ally and the Women’s Sports Foundation. Amicus briefs allow people who are not party a lawsuit to offer information, expertise and insight that have a bearing on the case.
“From sports flow incredible benefits and all youth should have access to that, right, no matter who they are or where they come from. That’s a bedrock principle, not just in sports, but, of course, of the values that we allegedly championed in our country. Right? Equal opportunity,” Charles said.
Athlete Ally is doing a lot of work in this space. I spoke this morning with Anne Lieberman, the organization’s director of policy and programs.
“What terrifies me as somebody who loves women’s sports, who grew up living, eating and breathing sports — I always talk about the Women’s World Cup teams that I grew up watching — it’s a strategy that’s turning women against women. And it’s heartbreaking for me. We look this in the face every day at Athlete Ally. So moving into the conversation about the amicus brief and why we do so much work with the Women’s Sports Foundation and why we decided to to really engage our athletes on this issue, is because when we talk about trans inclusion in sport, often the emphasis is on only trans women and girls. And there is such a loud volume of people saying `Trans women don’t belong in women’s sports.’ Athlete Ally and the Women’s Sports Foundation and all the athletes that are affiliated with us, that signed the brief, including many of our student athletes, want to say, `No, you don’t speak for us, in that trans women are women and that they belong in women’s sport.’”
The Ninth Circuit could take up to a year to issue a decision, and it’s just on the preliminary injunction.
Meanwhile, the ACLU says that state lawmakers nationwide introduced 20 bills in 2020 seeking to limit transgender participation in athletics. Here’s a really good primer that debunks the myths about transgender athletes from ACLU.
The sudden wave of proposed legislation (and in the midst of a pandemic) is why I wanted to highlight the issue here in The IX, and going forward I’ll likely do more work in this realm. If you have any comments, criticisms and/or suggestions, please reach out. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE BEST HERE AND ABROAD
The FIFA Best were announced. Happy I voted with Vlatko Andonovski and Becky Sauerbrunn for Vivianne Miedema for Player of the Year. Despite this support, Lucy Bronze won. Go figure.
Sarina Wiegman was Coach of the Year, totally an honorary nod since Ellis won it last year. I voted for her for this reason even though she hasn’t done much except accept the England job.
Sarah Bouhaddi was named Goalkeeper of the Year, I voted for Alyssa Naeher in the interest of transparency.
Megan Rapinoe was vocal — as usual — about her inclusion on the list. From Alex Azzi of NBC Sports. “The fact that I was selected once again sheds light on the fact that in order to push our game forward we need continued investment in the women’s game.”
I posted this on Twitter, but I’m glad there were so many arguments about the Best. It’s awesome. It’s not quite at the level of Heisman Trophy angst, but we’re getting there!
Sam Mewis was named the U.S. Soccer Player of the Year. I voted for her!
We here at The IX put out a survey asking for your vote! The winner, with nearly 66 percent of the vote, was Christen Press. Crystal Dunn was runner-up, followed by Mewis.
One voter wrote about Press: “Before the Covid-19. she was clearly the best player-she should not be penalized for not wanting to play during Covid while all other sports were shutting down.” THIS IS VERY TRUE. I went back and forth between Mewis and Press because of this, because Press really had an amazing six months before COVID-19 struck in March.
As for Dunn, a voter said “plays her role extremely well, and it’s not even her best role. Overdue for credit.”
And finally, from a Mewis voter: “Sam Mewis is the general on the field. Without her, the ball doesn’t move.”
Thank you so much for voting! Really fun to read the comments. Apologies I can’t post them all!
Side note: It never ceases to amaze me just how many Christen Press fans there are out there.
Here’s a fun graphic of the vote breakdown that my colleague Jackie Powell created!
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The Kansas City Star looks at the expectations for its *new* NWSL team.
Soccerwire on the the OL Reign’s denial that the team is looking to move.
Sounder at Heart’s Steve Voght was all over the OL Reign dustup, because of course.
The NCAA approved the NWSL’s request for a waiver to allow college players to be available for the draft while maintaining the eligibility.
Jeff Kassouf from The Equalizer with his analysis of the Reign thing.
Seth Vertelney from Goal.com takes a look at Alex Morgan and what looms ahead.
The Stanford Daily points out the number of Cardinal alum on the USWNT.
Annie Costabile of the Chicago Sun-Times with a wonderful profile of Alyssa Naeher.
Trust me and read this well-done piece that Fernando Alcalá-Zamora Ruiz wrote for The Equalizer on a pair of Americans abroad.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Tziarra King!
I spoke to Tziarra King about signing on to the amicus brief, and her activism. Here’s some excerpts from the interview. BTW, she’s really fun to talk to!
Question: Why did you lend your name to the amicus brief?
King: I guess, going back starting with why I wanted to join as an ambassador for Athlete Ally, I just feel like all underrepresented populations deserve a voice, deserve to be heard and seen in all areas, and especially in sports, where you have so much community and you build character and you learn and grow. For any group, especially the LGBTQ+ group, to not feel comfortable or safe in that environment, it’s just unacceptable. And so as far as this brief coming out, Joanna (with Athlete Ally) let me know in the summer about the Idaho, HB 500, and it’s crazy that somebody is going to be shunned or or not accepted or for who they are. I just think that you should be able to identify how you want to identify. I feel like people make these hypotheticals (about transgender athletes), but you don’t even know that, like, where’s your evidence? Where’s your proof that this is going to happen? Why are you trying to address a problem that’s not a problem, right? So when Joanna had told me about that, and some of the campaigns they were doing and now with the brief, I was 100 percent on board with just supporting supporting the transgender community.
Question: Even as a rookie, you have not been afraid of using your voice. Why?
King: I think in the midst of everything that went down this year and, I don’t know, just. something inside me was telling me, you need to speak up, and I think that that’s what I did. I really don’t know. I just I feel like I didn’t have any fears of repercussions or anything like that because I feel like this is where I wanted to be on this platform, and so for me to not use this platform for positivity and positive change and for good, to me felt like a waste of everything I’ve worked for my whole life.
Question: You were one of the first people to call out Dell Loy Hansen, along with Nick Rimando, which took guts because he was the owner of your team. Did you second guess yourself at any point?
King: Absolutely not. Never. Never once did I regret posting that because honestly, having an environment like that where a person feels untouchable, is so problematic and we see it so many times across so many different workplaces. And it’s like, if I’m going to be the one that gets punished for saying something, it is what it is. Honestly, when you think about an NWSL salary, the stakes — I could be getting paid more doing something else,. So for me to be doing this because I love it, and for the environment not to be what it should be, to me it was a no brainer. This is something that needs to be spoken up about.
Question: Is it important to you to see representation in sport, soccer especially?
King: One hundred percent, without a doubt. Really not even just for kids in their sport, just kids in general. Growing up and seeing like black women or transgender identifying people or, and that intersection between who you are and your sport and all of those things, I think that’s just inspiring seed all around. And not only that, but an environment that protects you and acknowledges who you are, and supports the things that you are — I just think that that has so much power and I don’t know that people who aren’t in a minority group really understand the power in that and and how empowering that is and uplifting that is and inspiring that is. So it’s it’s so important, without a doubt.
Question: Do think of yourself as a role model?
King: So, the term role model is very — to me, role model is like, `Oh, that person’s perfect.’ And that is 100 percent not what I want to be. I want to be somebody who is an advocate, or I just want to feel like being my authentic self. I don’t want that pressure. So I feel like depending on what your definition of role model is — I just I just want to be true to who I am and true to the things that I stand for and I support. And if people think that that’s a role model, then cool. And if not, that’s fine too.