Anti-trans bill could put NCAA events at risk in South Dakota

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 6:25 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - House Bill 1217, a bill that would prohibit transgender women and girls from playing sports on teams that match their gender identity, is heading to the desk of Governor Noem’s after both the House and the Senate passed the bill.

In a tweet on Monday, Governor Noem said, “I’m excited to sign this bill very soon.”

However, this decision has the potential to put all NCAA events held in South Dakota in jeopardy, including the Summit League tournament.

For example, in 2016 North Carolina passed the “Bathroom Bill”, and because of it, the NCAA relocated seven events out of the state stating their concern for civil rights protections.

In the last five years, Sioux Falls has played host to nine NCAA championship and regional events in the sports of basketball, hockey, and wrestling. Including hosting the Summit League Championships since 2009 which boosts the area’s economy.

“It’s well into the millions of dollars and the main thing to remember about economic impact is it’s not just about what the visitors come in and spend. You have to remember it generates taxes; it generates jobs,” said Experience Sioux Falls Executive Director Teri Schmidt.

The NCAA released a statement to Dakota News Now on the possibility of relocating their events:

“The NCAA continues to closely monitor state bills that impact transgender student-athlete participation. The NCAA believes in fair and respectful student-athlete participation at all levels of sport. The Association’s transgender student-athlete participation policy and other diversity policies are designed to facilitate and support inclusion. The NCAA believes diversity and inclusion improve the learning environment and it encourages its member colleges and universities to support the well-being of all student-athletes.”

As far as what could happen with the Summit League Basketball Championships the commissioner said in a statement:

“This is a topic that our office has been tracking on, but we have yet to spend the quality time needed to review this specific bill.”

Those who helped bring NCAA events to the Rushmore State, are worried that the NCAA could take them elsewhere if House Bill 1217 is signed. Including possible future events as well.

“The question simply asked on all of those applications is, ‘do you have any laws that discriminate against any people for race, creed, ethnicity, gender, and so forth?’ And if this bill passes, we have to answer that honestly yes. The minute we answer that our bids go to the side,” Sioux Falls Sports Authority Board Member Dana Dykhouse said.

According to Sports Illustrated, USD Track and Field Athlete Jess Skopec is among the nearly 550 students that signed a letter sent to the NCAA.

Those athletes are calling on the NCAA to stop holding championship events in states that have passed anti-trans sports legislation.

The organizers sent a similar letter last year, after a bill passed in Idaho.

According to Experience Sioux Falls, there are four events scheduled to come to Sioux Falls in the next five years on top of the annual events.

Those events are:

  • 2024 DI Men’s Ice Hockey Regional
  • 2024 DII Women’s Volleyball Championships
  • 2026 DII Men’s Wrestling Championship
  • 2026 DI Men’s Ice Hockey Regional

Dakota News Now did reach out the Governor Noem’s office today and did not hear back for comment.

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