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Sports Authority: Anti-Trans Bill Could Prove Costly

Paul Steinbach

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem said Monday that she's "excited" to sign House Bill 1217, which prohibits transgender students from playing on a team that aligns with their gender identity. Court battles would likely follow the South Dakota legislature’s latest attempt to restrict the rights of transgender individuals (think 2017 “bathroom bill”).

In the meantime, Dave Zimbeck of the Sioux Falls Sports Authority told the Rapid City Journal that the law could result in the cancellation of NCAA tournaments in city. The NCAA has inclusion policies concerning transgender student athletes that are in conflict with the policy the legislation would implement, and the organization may choose to impose sanctions on South Dakota colleges and universities that comply with state law.

As reported by the Journal, the NCAA’s policy on transgender athlete inclusion states, “When diversity values are explicit, athletic departments, institutions, state, and national governing organizations are in a position to develop specific policy statements that reflect a commitment to these values. These policy statements, if followed, protect schools, administrators, student-athletes, and coaches from litigation and other negative consequences.”

Zimbeck said the NCAA requires sports teams to certify that there are no laws or ordinances that impact the welfare of student athletes or staff, and if HB 1217 became law, South Dakota schools would have to report it to the NCAA.

Related: Athletes to NCAA: Avoid States with Transgender Limits

“Ultimately, that’s deemed under the NCAA policies as discriminatory. And that would put us on the outside looking in, and ultimately we would lose out on a bid we were seeking, and we would also lose out on a tournament that’s already been awarded to us,” Zimbeck told the Journal on Wednesday. “This bill as it's written casts a big shadow on our ability to host a tournament.”

The Sports Authority has a year-to-year contract to sponsor the NCAA’s annual Summit League basketball tournament, which alone translates to $5 million in revenue to the local economy. The Sports Authority has also hosted regional finals for both ice hockey and women’s basketball, which have generated $2.8 to $2.5 million in revenue, respectively, the Journal reported.

Tom Johnson of Elevate Rapid City, an economic development agency, said legislation such as HB 1217 sometimes has an impact on companies thinking of doing business in South Dakota. “I would like for the legislature and for South Dakota to continue to look at how we can make this state conducive to companies expanding, our workforce, our air service, our housing, and in areas that make South Dakota look more diverse and more inclusive and not less,” Johnson said.

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