(New York, NY, October 14, 2021) – Today, sports icon Billie Jean King, U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team Co-Captain and World Cup Champion Megan Rapinoe, and WNBA stars Layshia Clarendon and Brianna Turner joined more than 150 fellow athletes in women’s sports to support providing girls and women who are transgender the equal opportunity to participate in sports.
The athletes joined the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), Athlete Ally, and the Women’s Sports Foundation as signatories to a friend-of-the-court brief Lambda Legal filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, urging the court to affirm a lower court ruling dismissing a challenge to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s (CIAC’s) trans-inclusive policy enabling transgender students to participate in school sports. The WNBPA is the union for current women’s professional basketball players in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Athlete Ally is a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ inclusion in sports. The Women’s Sports Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on enabling girls and women to reach their potential in sport and life.
“There is no place in any sport for discrimination of any kind,” Billie Jean King said. “I’m proud to support all transgender athletes who simply want the access and opportunity to compete in the sport they love. The global athletic community grows stronger when we welcome and champion all athletes – including LGBTQI+ athletes.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an anti-LGBTQ organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, brought a lawsuit challenging CIAC’s trans-inclusive policy in February 2020. The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut dismissed the lawsuit in April 2020 and ADF appealed that dismissal to the Second Circuit.
“Trans youth around the United States have been targeted by hate groups like ADF and state legislators for discrimination. This is wrong and cruel. Trans-inclusive sports participation policies benefit not just transgender athletes, but all who participate in school sports. We are thankful for the dozens of women athletes, including internationally recognized stars, trailblazers, and role models for all youth, that have joined today’s brief and come together to support trans youth’s participation in school sports,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said. “These athletes share one thing in common: a deep understanding and appreciation of the life-long benefits that come from participation in sports. They share a valuable perspective about how they would not have accessed these benefits without the guarantee of equal opportunity to participate in sports and we hope the court takes it into account.”
“At the WNBPA, we honor the diversity of identities and perspectives our members bring to the table. The players believe in the power of sport to fundamentally change the lives of all young people. As attacks across the country continue to escalate, we want to send an unequivocal message to trans and nonbinary youth in sports: we see you, we are an ally and we will fight for you,” said Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) Executive Director Terri Jackson.
The amicus brief underscores the multitude of benefits all young people experience by participating in sports, not only in terms of physical fitness but also, and perhaps more importantly, in the learned values of teamwork and sportsmanship. Denying girls and women who are transgender the ability to participate flies in the face of everything that sports stand for in this country. Throughout the brief, the athletes who signed the brief discuss the real and enduring benefits of participating as their true and authentic selves in the sports they love, as well as how such participation benefitted them on the field, in the classroom, and later, in life.
“Sport has the power to change lives, and this amicus brief is a testimony to that power,” said Anne Lieberman, Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally. “Professional, Olympic, and Paralympic athletes have come together to underscore the tremendous benefits sport has brought to their lives, including invaluable lessons of teamwork and discipline, and their support for transgender athletes who simply want the same access and opportunity. Athlete Ally is proud to sign on to this brief, and we are grateful to the partner organizations and athletes who join us in fighting for sport to truly be inclusive for all.”
“The fight for equality is the very cornerstone of the Women’s Sports Foundation; regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or ability, all girls and women deserve the opportunity to play, compete and lead,” said Deborah Antoine, WSF CEO. “We are proud to join the partner organizations and the many advocate athletes signing this important brief. We firmly believe that humanity wins when everyone, including transgender athletes, is represented and included.”
Read the full brief here.
Women’s Sports Foundation
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education, and policy work. www.lambdalegal.org
Athlete Ally believes sport will change the world when it welcomes and empowers all people. As a leading national nonprofit working at the intersection of sport and LGBTQI+ equality, Athlete Ally works to end the structural and systemic oppression that isolates, excludes and endangers LGBTQI+ people in sport. We educate individuals and institutions to understand obstacles to inclusion for LGBTQI+ people and how they can build an inclusive culture within their athletic communities. We work to ensure sport governing bodies, teams and leagues adopt policies that reflect the diversity of their constituents. We incubate athlete activism to advance LGBTQI+ equality in and through sport. For more information, visit www.athleteally.org
The Women’s Sports Foundation exists to enable girls and women to reach their potential in sport and life. We are an ally, an advocate and a catalyst. Founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, we strengthen and expand participation and leadership opportunities through research, advocacy, community programming and a wide variety of collaborative partnerships. The Women’s Sports Foundation has positively shaped the lives of millions of youth, high school and collegiate student-athletes, elite athletes and coaches. We’re building a future where every girl and woman can #KeepPlaying and unlock the lifelong benefits of sport participation. All girls. All women. All sports.® To learn more about the Women’s Sports Foundation, please visit www.WomensSportsFoundation.org.
Athlete Quotes in the brief:
Lori Lindsey is a retired soccer midfielder and former member of the United States Women’s National Team. She played in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany and was an alternate for the 2012 London Olympics.
“I learned so many incredible lessons from soccer — especially the values of hard work, discipline, and teamwork. These values have carried over into every part of my life, beyond sport.
“I was grateful that when I came out as a lesbian, I didn’t have to step away from the sport I loved. I gained the tremendous gift of being fully myself and showing other LGBTQ+ athletes that there’s a place for them in sport.”
Kaiya McCullough is a professional soccer player who previously played as a defender in the German 2 Frauen-Bundesliga and in the NWSL. McCullough was part of the United States Under-18, Under-19, and Under-20 national teams.
“Every player on a team brings their own unique experience, and that’s what makes a team stronger. I value the friendships I’ve developed with LGBTQ+ teammates, and I’ve learned from them how to be a better ally.
“Soccer has given me a platform to speak out about what’s important to me, including calling out systemic racism and transphobia. Black trans women face some of the highest rates of violence and suicidality in the country, and through soccer I can encourage my fans to be more knowledgeable and empathetic.”
Phaidra Knight is a former rugby player who was a member of the United States National Team from 1999 to 2017. She participated in the 2002, 2006, and 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup, and won All-World Team honors in the first two World Cups. She was named USA Rugby’s Player of the Decade in 2010. On November 10, 2017, she was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
“Sport is the one thing in my life that’s really brought me into a full person; the people I’ve discovered, the pathways it’s allowed me to take, my ability to touch and inspire others whose lives I’d never have come across. So it’s been amazing. It’s been everything for me. My rugby teammates are like a family to me. And with that goes, like a family, the bad things: you get sick of each other, you argue, you have fights, but at the end of the day that’s your teammate. And like a family member, you always have their back.
“As a coach [with youth at Riker’s Island], I’d set up certain guidelines: No talking when someone else is talking. ‘You’re going to respect everyone, you’re going to respect me.’ I hope to someday be able to show how introducing discipline with love and direction … can transform an individual.”
Meike Babel is a former professional tennis player from Germany who played on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour for ten years. She was Women’s Tennis Assistant Coach at Tulane University and at Vanderbilt University.
“Trans athletes deserve to play and compete just like any other athlete. We all deserve to experience all the benefits of sport. In my mind, any athlete that fights to be themselves on and off the field, court or track are role models with inner strength and resiliency. As athletes and as human beings, we learn from each other when we are around people who embrace who they are.”
Meghan Duggan is a retired American ice hockey forward who had a 14-year career with Team USA. She competed in 3 Olympic Games, and captained the team in 2 of those games. She won two silver medals in 2010 and 2014 and captained the team to the gold medal in 2018. She also represented the United States at eight Women’s World Championships, capturing seven gold medals and one silver medal. Meghan is also a motivational speaker, a mentor, an advocate, a wife, and a new mom!
“I have always wanted to change the world through sports. Playing hockey empowered me and gave me an amazing platform to advocate for the issues that matter the most to me, especially gender equality and LGBTQ+ inclusion.
“Women’s professional ice hockey continues to struggle because of the lack of resources, visibility, recognition, and support for women in the sport. When I stood up and fought for equal pay with my teammates on the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team, I was ready to sacrifice competing in a World Championship to stand up for the rights that we deserved.
“Trans athletes deserve those same rights and equal opportunities in sports. I now mentor young athletes, inspiring them to find their voices through hockey. Every child, regardless of gender identity, should have the chance to access the lifelong skills that sports teach like confidence, perseverance and leadership.”
Aimee Mullins is an actor, model, and public speaker. A former track and field athlete who set three world records in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and long jump events and competed at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. She was President of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 2007-2009, and Chef de Mission of Team USA for the 2012 Games.
“I think the greatest adversity that we create for ourselves is this idea of “normalcy” as it applies to human beings. There is no normal. There’s common, there’s typical, but there’s no normal. Whether it’s gender, physical or mental ability, or another categorization used to simplify and make assumptions about people, sports help break down barriers that society imposes.
“As a bilateral below-knee amputee, I spent roughly the first two decades of my life competing against ‘normal’ athletes. Indeed, I had never met another amputee athlete until I was 18 years old. Never in my life have I felt defined by the term ‘disabled,’ regardless of what labels others may try to attach to me.
“Sports have provided a safe and inclusive space for me to grow as both an athlete and a person. They created an opportunity to embrace the adversity at hand and be better because of it…and ultimately to help make society better too. If we can begin to shift away from the mirage of normalcy and instead view deviations from the common through a lens of possibility, we can increase access to sports and all of the benefits they provide. So many more potential participants would be invited to engage their rare and valuable abilities, both in sport and in their communities.”