West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice reiterated Wednesday that he doesn’t plan to veto a bill banning transgender middle school, high school and college girls and women from playing on women’s sports teams — even though he conceded it could lead the NCAA to “penalize us.”
“There is some talk, you know, that we could come back into a special session and retroactively look back at it and everything,” Justice said in response to a question from WOWK-TV journalist Mark Curtis, “but, Mark, I am either going to let it become law or sign it. You know I’m absolutely not — I am not supportive of a veto.”
Bills automatically become laws if a governor doesn’t officially sign them or veto them.
The NCAA said in a news release Monday that it might no longer hold college championships in states with such laws.
West Virginia University is hosting women’s and men’s rifle championships in 2025, and it is expected to host diving championships next year, according to WVU spokespeople. It has hosted NCAA championship events for about five sports since 2015, including women’s gymnastics regionals this month, and multiple rounds of women’s soccer in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, they said.
But WVU hasn’t come out in opposition or support of the bill. On Wednesday, it said in an email that “we are still reviewing the legislation and the impact it will have on WVU and our student athletes as it relates to NCAA tournament competition.”
Marshall University spokeswoman Leah Payne wrote in an email that “there is concern that such a law could negatively affect future NCAA events in West Virginia.”
The legislation (House Bill 3293) would implement the ban only at public schools, colleges and universities.
There’s been a wave of similar legislation being passed or proposed in several states — and a wave of individuals and groups calling on the NCAA to take action.
“We are committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them,” the NCAA release said.
“Even at our college level, I support the bill there as well,” Justice said. “The only problem is just one thing, and that is this: The NCAA, you know, has moved to a more political, politically correct or liberal body. And they could very well penalize us.”
It’s not just the NCAA opposing such bills. The West Virginia State Medical Association, the West Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the West Virginia Psychological Association and the West Virginia School Psychologists Association also oppose the bill.
An NCAA rule dating to 2011 allows transgender female athletes to participate on women’s teams, but only after at least a year of testosterone-suppression treatment. West Virginia’s bill makes no such allowance.
Despite the threat in the news release, as of Wednesday, NCAA spokeswoman Michelle Hosick wrote in an email that “at this time, the [NCAA] Board of Governors has not made any decisions regarding championships and continues to monitor the situation.”
At a news conference last week with the national Human Rights Campaign group, two current NCAA women’s athletes called on the NCAA to act. So did Napheesa Collier, a WNBA player on the Minnesota Lynx.
“Transgender inclusion is so crucial for the health, safety and well-being of transgender kids, who are already at a higher risk of anxiety, depression and dysmorphia, suicide,” Collier said. “And some transgender kids say that playing sports helped to save their lives.
“I would not be who I am without playing sports, and I consider transgender women my teammates, not a threat,” she said. “[The] NCAA has to take action and withdraw all athletic competitions from states considering harmful anti-transgender in sports bills.”
Zooey Zephyr, a transgender woman, also said she wouldn’t be who she is today without playing sports. She said that, growing up, she won multiple state wrestling championships, before her transition.
“I worked hard to be a better wrestler, and a better person,” she said. “Now, in my adulthood, I work hard every day to be a better person, to understand that I can be bold and be brave in the face of adversity, and trust the process that, if I work hard every day, I’ll see the results. And that’s what I want for my transgender sisters and brothers across the country.”
West Virginia’s legislation would ban transgender women from competing on females’ teams, but not vice versa for men’s teams. So, if the NCAA ends only women’s championships in West Virginia, that means a bill Republicans argued was to protect women’s sports would only be barring women’s championship events.
“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected,” the NCAA news release said. “We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”