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Former U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe and WNBA legend Sue Bird were among the current and former athletes who signed Athlete Ally’s letter to the NCAA urging the organization to forgo enacting a policy that would bar trans athletes from competing in women’s sports.

The letter from the LGBTQ advocacy group came after more than a dozen House Republican lawmakers urged NCAA president Charlie Baker to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports, following a policy set by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics earlier this month. The lawmakers cited Lia Thomas’ national championship in 2022, which marked Thomas as the first trans woman to win an NCAA national title.

“We, the undersigned, call upon the NCAA, a governing body meant to serve athletes and our wellbeing, to ensure that the lifesaving power of sport is accessible to all athletes who compete in championship and emerging sports at and for NCAA-member institutions – including transgender athletes,” the letter read. “To deny transgender athletes the fundamental right to be who they are, to access the sport they love, and to receive the proven mental and physical health benefits of sport goes against the very principles of the NCAA’s Constitution.

“By barring transgender athletes, you would be severely limiting the capacity of your member institutions to protect and support their athletes. Moreover, you would be actively disparaging transgender athletes – the same athletes you chose to protect when you agreed to serve on the Board of Governors.”

The letter cited South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley’s support for transgender athletes after being asked by OutKick about the issue.

The letter said the fight for fairness in women’s sports misses the real issues “unequal pay, failure to uphold Title IX, rampant sexual abuse and harassment of women and girl athletes, and a lack of equal resources for men’s and women’s teams.”

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Megan Rapinoe at an Axios summit

Riley Gaines was also the target of the letter, which blamed the media for framing her “incite transphobic hatred and policy, despite the hundreds of swimmers who have stated their support for transgender athletes, endorsing the expertise of medical, athletic, and human rights professionals who helped shape the IOC’s inclusive policy.”

The letter did not mention the testimony Gaines and Paula Scanlan gave to Congress about the NCAA allowing Thomas to change in the women’s locker room.

“As athletes, we know firsthand that sport has the power to change lives. Allowing transgender athletes within the NCAA to participate in the sports they love as who they truly are alongside their teammates fulfills the true spirit of Olympism we all ascribe to. Sport should never be for a select few. We call on you to be on the right side of history and affirm that sport is truly for us all. Do not ban transgender women from NCAA women’s sports.”

U.S. women soccer stars Becky Sauerbrunn, Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams joined Rapinoe, as well as WNBA players Brianna Turner and Layshia Clarendon. Olympic silver medalist swimmer Brooke Forde was among the swimmers who signed the letter as well.

Thomas did not sign the letter.

Lia Thomas in the 500

“The time is now for the NCAA and the nationwide athletic community to speak up and affirm that sports should be for everyone, including transgender athletes,” Rapinoe added in a statement through Athlete Ally.

“To my fellow cis women athletes: the time is now to say loud and clear that bans against trans athletes framed as ‘protecting women’s sports’ do not speak for us, and do nothing to protect us. To the trans athletes fearing that they may be sidelined from the sport they love: I see you and hear you and I am WITH YOU.”

The NCAA told NBC News, “college sports are the premier stage for women’s sports in America and the NCAA will continue to promote Title IX, make unprecedented investments in women’s sports and ensure fair competition for all student-athletes in all NCAA championships.”

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