© 2024 254 North Front Street, Suite 300, Wilmington, NC 28401 | 910.343.1640
News Classical 91.3 Wilmington 92.7 Wilmington 96.7 Southport
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Backed by Sylvia Hatchell, NC Republicans seek to restrict transgender athletes

Former UNC Women's Basketball Coach Sylvia Hatchell spoke at a legislative press conference in support of a bill that would limit transgender athletes. Hatchell instructs her team during a first-round game against California in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Waco, Texas, Saturday, March 23, 2019.
Tony Gutierrez
/
AP
Former UNC Women's Basketball Coach Sylvia Hatchell spoke at a legislative press conference in support of a bill that would limit transgender athletes. Hatchell instructs her team during a first-round game against California in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Waco, Texas, Saturday, March 23, 2019.

New state legislation would prevent transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

House and Senate Republicans held a press conference Thursday about what they’re calling the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” The prohibition would apply to college and K-12 sports teams designated for women and girls.

Supporters of the bill said it’s unfair for people who were born male to compete against people who were born female. Former UNC-Chapel Hill women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchellsays she supports transgender rights, but fair play in sports poses problems.

"Competitive sports is one of the few places in our society where sex differences matter," Hatchell said. "Those differences are men’s greater strength, size, speed and muscle mass."

Hatchell, 71, was the head coach of the Tar Heels from 1986 to 2019, and led the program to its lone national championship in 1994. In 2019, she resigned after an investigation revealed she made "racially insensitive" remarks and exercised "undue influence" on her players to play while injured.

“To ensure that female athletes have access to fair and safe competition, trans girls and trans women – at any age – should not be eligible to compete against females,” Hatchell said. “… The purpose of Title IX was to make sports fair and equal. Females having to compete against transgenders is not fair and equal.”

Transgender women and girls would have to join men’s or co-ed teams if the bill becomes law. Opponents of the bill say that would deprive transgender athletes of the physical and mental benefits of sports. The LGBT advocacy group Equality NC has an online petition opposing the measure.

Sen. Kevin Corbin, R-Macon and a co-sponsor of the bill, says the measure aims to "fix loopholes" in sports regulations.

"We want to make sure fair competition is maintained," Corbin said. "We wouldn't put a [junior varsity] team up against a varsity team, and we don’t have men’s teams play against women's teams."

The N.C. High School Athletic Association told WRAL that there are only 15 transgender high school athletes in the state, and there has been "little to no adverse impact from these students participating in our program."

The sports bill was filed in the same week as other Republican-sponsored measures that would restrict access to gender-affirming medical treatments for people under age 18.

"These bills will endanger the lives of many trans youth, especially impacting those who already lack access to the life-saving healthcare they need," Equality NC said on its website.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court also refused to intervene and enforce a law in West Virginiathat bans transgender athletes from participating on girls' teams.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.