In light of Texas' horrifying new laws, the NCAA must understand that inaction speaks volumes

·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·5-min read

What you speak up about — or don't — says volumes.

This week, a barbaric, inhumane law went into effect in Texas that effectively bans all abortion and even worse, deputizes others with nothing better to do to turn people in they even suspect may take agency over their own health and well-being and receive a bounty for doing so.

It's nauseating even writing that sentence.

And if that weren't horrifying enough, the Texas legislature also passed a rather undemocratic bill this week to restrict voting, and as of now, basically anyone in the state can own a gun — no license or training required. 

Oh, and another new law went into effect this week: It discourages school teachers from discussing current events around issues of race, and if they do, compels them to "give deference to both sides," because we must always make space for people who believe Black lives being valued is a bad thing and the KKK had some redeeming qualities, actually.

More nausea.

To this point, the NCAA has been silent on all of these things, as have, as best we can tell, the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

But it is the NCAA that expects young women to travel to Dallas in roughly 18 months to play in the Final Four, to help bring money to a state that, implied by its actions, does not respect them as human beings. And that's putting it kindly.

How can the NCAA claim to care about its female athletes and still allow a state like Texas, which this week had an anti-abortion law go into effect, to profit off its competition? (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
How can the NCAA claim to care about its female athletes and still allow a state like Texas, which this week had an anti-abortion law go into effect, to profit off its competition? (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Just last month, a law firm commissioned by the NCAA told many of us what we already knew: that the organization allegedly committed to all collegiate student-athletes systemically devalues women athletes and the teams they play for.

The NCAA Board of Governors, who are not the smartest lot given that they actually, unanimously, extended the contract of president-slash-walking PR disaster Mark Emmert earlier this year, pledged after the release of the findings that it “directed the NCAA president to act urgently to address any organizational issues" and promised to improve women's experiences at championships.

That would include being forced to travel to a state that does not seem to view women as worthy of agency over their own bodies, and tried hard to exclude "urban" (read: Black) citizens from fully accessing the ballot box, no? 

Texas is currently scheduled to host not just the women's Final Four in 2023, but also the men's event that same year, as well as in 2025. If those cities, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio (San Antonio will also be a Sweet 16/Elite 8 site for the coming tournament in 2022), didn't think there was something to be gained from hosting one of the marquee sporting events of the year, they wouldn't have bid on the right to do so.

So the NCAA should tell those cities and the state of Texas: If you don't support civil rights for all people, you don't get to host our championships.

It's not like the organization hasn't done it before. In 2015, then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, which codified bigotry against LGBTQ individuals, and the NCAA joined some major corporations in not only publicly denouncing that law but also encouraging the state to pass statutes protecting LGBTQ residents. (NCAA headquarters are located in Indianapolis.)

In 2016, the NCAA pulled championships from North Carolina after its so-called "bathroom bill," which targeted the transgender community. Between the NCAA and other events and corporations boycotting the state, North Carolina was estimated to have lost billions in potential revenue.

It may be discouraging, but at this point it's likely the only thing narrow-minded lawmakers like those in Texas respond to is money. Clearly not many of these public figures feel actual shame anymore, and dismaying as it is for some of us in certain circles, this kind of blatant undermining of human rights is celebrated by some.

But the prospect of losing money — they may respond to that. Local organizers estimated that the 2018 men's Final Four in San Antonio brought $185 million to the city's economy in one week. One hopes city leaders wouldn't take kindly to the prospect of losing out on that amount of money, and would pressure its state representatives to work to repeal the odious new laws.

Maybe it's folly to expect the NCAA to actually do anything and stand up for the roughly 220,000 women competing for its members institutions, or the 21 percent who are Black, or even the ones who are neither but believe in the radical concept of all humans being created equal. 

For whatever spine it showed in 2016 with North Carolina, this year the NCAA "warned" states about passing bills to discriminate against transgender people and threaten to prevent them from hosting championships, only to go ahead and award games to three states that did just that. 

But right now, the NCAA is silent.

And there comes a time when silence is just betrayal, betrayal of a very group you said you'd do better by just weeks ago.

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