NCAA Faces Challenges In Accomodating LGBT Athletes

Brittney Griner

By Dr. Andro Barnett

Special to the Colllege Sports Journal


PHILADELPHIA, PA – In college sports, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students comprise a cultural and an identity minority in college and campuses.


These students are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation while some experience discrimination due to their ethnic as well as racial identity.


The existence of LGBT students in college sports coupled with hostile campus environments comprise some of the critical aspects of collegiate sports programs.


Although college campuses situations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender players have improved, LGBT students in sports still experience some level of discrimination as well as prejudice or stereotyping.


The NCAA has organized different forums in the attempt to address inclusion issues such as anti-LGBT behaviors and attitudes prevalent in sports.


In addition, university faculty, administrators, and staff have an ethical as well as a moral obligation to diffuse attitudinal and antagonism barriers.


It is their responsibility to create a safe physical environment, positive scholarly climate, and impartiality in campus, organizational, residential as well as extra curricula activities.


Moreover, emphasis should be placed on fulfilling the needs of integrating LGBT students in college sports.


This article addresses the issue of coming out as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in college sports.


LGBT in College Sports

College sports are characterized by several challenges relating to the integration of various aspects of the contemporary society, such as racial, ethnic and sexual orientation diversity.


According to Ice ’n’ Go: Score in Sports and Life (Moshak, J., & Schriver, D., UT Press, 2013), sport success is attributed to diversity and equality, which are fundamental elements that increase capacity as well as performance.


Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered coaches as well as athletes should be safe and equitably treated to eliminate the negative experiences of student-athletes concerning campus climate anddiscrimination.


Although there are considerable measures to prevent discrimination, stereotyping and harassment of LGBT students, the NCAA, college administrators and other involved authorities or institutions have not ensured that they are appropriately addressed as well as treated in college sports.


In the modern society, hate crimes against people alleged as gender variant are widespread and usually ignored by lawmakers as well as the media. In the last decade, an approximate of one individual per month was reported murdered due to his or her gender expression or identity.


Further, numerous incidents of murders and harassment of LGBT people are not investigated or covered in the media as probable anti-LGBT hate crimes by agencies responsible for law enforcement.


Harassment as well as violence against lesbians, gay, bisexuals and transgendered people are also predicated on gender variance. Besides, homophobic attackers usually target people who fit the stereotypes of lesbians as masculine and gay men as feminine.


LGBT athletes in college campuses face similar scenarios, which not only influence negatively their self-esteem and motivation but also hinder their advancement in college sports as well as professional careers in sports.

LGBT student-athletes experience fears and stereotypes associated with gender roles and homosexuality.


Coming out as an LGBT in college sports can be a difficult and alienating experience for athletes as well as coaches. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered students in sports are highly likely to be subject to harassment, discrimination, threats as well as violence.


Furthermore, current pro-masculine ideology and conditions in institution of sports promotes homophobia, which substantially hinders equity as well as advance anti-LGBT behaviors and attitudes in college sports.


Cultural, societal and religious perspectives also influence the attempts by LGBT individuals to participate in sports. These people, however, should not live in continuous apprehension of being “found out” or fear of losing their scholarships or playing time.


The LGBT student athletes should be free to express their sexual orientation without fear of negative consequences associated with their different gender variance.


It is significant to tackle the concern of homophobia in college sports because of the influential and unique role of sports in the contemporary society.


Athletes, including professional, collegiate as well as high school athletes are considered as role models in the society.


In addition, many sports fans are fascinated by athletes’ lives on as well as off the playing field. As such, athletes are likely to pass on their homophobic ideas by expressing, intentionally or unintentionally, these discriminating ideas to individuals who respect them.


However, the powerful and unique positions of athletes may allow them to express homophobic ideas.


It is inappropriate to alienate or discriminate LGBT student-athletes and coaches based on such bases because it may demoralize youths willing to engage in college sports, such as athletics, basketball, peewee football and Little League, among others.


The impressionable students are likely to be impacted by ant-LGBT attitudes and action by coaches as well as fellow players or athletes.

Furthermore, homophobia and discrimination negatively influence numerous LGBT coaches, according to the 2012 LGBTQ National College Athlete Report.


Lesbians, gay, bisexuals and transgendered individuals continue to lack full protection provided to people of color, women, and the disabled in college sports.


In some states, it is still legal to deny an individual access to sport facilities for being a lesbian, gay or transgender.


In addition, the NCAA has failed to incorporate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes into policies that safeguard these as well as other groups from discrimination, particularly in college sports.


However, some gay and transgender athletes or players file discrimination complaints at rates equivalent or higher than other protected groups, including race and gender.


Besides, lawmakers have introduced laws and policies, which are intended to bring full protection among LGBT people engaged in sports.


If these laws are passed and implemented appropriately, LGBT athletes would have comparable protections to those provided to other minority groups.


Although these laws are comprehensive in scope, they tend to exempt opinions and perceptions of religious organizations, and prohibit preferential treatment for LGBT athletes.


Transgendered athletes comprise the most recent issue in college sports. Baylor’s Brittney Griner’s eligibility is probably the most well-known issue in this regard.


The NCAA is addressing this issue as its major gender identity or sexual orientation topic, particularly in its legislation.


The NCAA has formulated Inclusion of Transgender Students-Athletes policy, which makes sure that transgendered student-athletes have respectful, legal and fair access to various college sport teams in accordance to current legal as well as medical knowledge.


The NCAA policy directs institutions to safeguard the safety, dignity and privacy of transgendered studentathletes.


Furthermore, the policy seeks to ensure access to various sport facilities, including locker rooms as well as restroom facilities based on the legislation that guarantees people the right to utilize gender-specific facilities, which correspond to their gender expression as well as identity.

However, transgendered student-athletes are yet to obtain absolute acceptance and equitable treatment in college sports.


Colleges are required to employ a “zero tolerance” policy for violence, harassment as well as discrimination against gender variant individuals. They should also explicitly outline the consequences of anti-LGBT hate crimes as well as hate incidents.


It is important that a more comprehensive and effective approach be adopted to promote inclusion of LGBT studentathletes in college sports and protect them from discrimination as well as harassment from other students as well as coaches.


The college faculties and students should be informed of relevant people or channels to use if they are victimized.


In addition, colleges should provide the opportunity of anonymous reporting in the attempts to prevent cases of victimization and harassment.


Although the state law does not require colleges to put these measures in place, it is fundamental for institutions to monitor hate crimes in colleges against people due to their gender expression or identity.


The public progressively supports protections and fairness for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in the community.


Human rights activists, institutions and societal groups have advocated for equality as well as impartiality to avoid discrimination as well as harassment based on a person’s sexual preference and gender characteristics or expression.


As a result, many LGBT athletes are coming out in professional and collegiate sports, a sign that colleges as well as the sport climate is becoming more accepted and appreciative of people’s sexual orientations.


This has promoted the participation of LGBT students in college sports and building teams that are more cohesive.


It has also enhanced high performance as well as respect and acceptance of people diverse as well as a unique personality.



Coming out as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or as a transgender in college sports can be a difficult and alienating experience for athletes as well as coaches.


LGBT students in sports are highly likely to be subject to harassment, discrimination, threats as well as violence.


Transgender is the most recent issue addressed in college sports.

In addition, the NCAA has formulated measures and policies to make sure that LGBT student-athletes have respectful, legal and fair access to various college sport teams in accordance to current legal as well as medical knowledge.


The public has also supported protections and fairness for the LGBT community, which has resulted in many LGBT athletes are coming out in professional and collegiate sports.