A special session of the Utah Legislature is scheduled to be held Friday to override Gov. Spencer Cox’s veto of HB11, a law that would ban transgender girls from participating in sporting events at girls’ schools.
If HB11 becomes law, there could be ramifications far beyond the world of high school sports in Utah, including the state potentially drawing the 2023 All-Star Game over the controversial bill.
It must be noted that the most devastating effects of HB11 would be for those who could be adversely affected by this bill, who are already vulnerable members of our community and who experience discrimination and have little to no say in what is decided about their lives .
It’s also important to understand that only one transgender girl currently plays on a girls high school athletic team in Utah (the Utah High School Athletic Association said they know of only four students who are transgender athletes — with only one of those transgender students athletes playing on girls’ teams), and that the bill was originally rushed through in the closing hours of a recent legislative session with no public comment, debate, or input.
While the potential harm to individuals this bill could affect, fair implementation of the policy, and prominent community figures opposed to the bill have not compelled a change of heart for those seeking to override the governor’s veto, and have not prevented the legislature from enforcing this law. perhaps the financial implications of passing such a law.
First, as Cox pointed out in the five-page letter that accompanied his veto, HB11 has the potential to be game-changing for UHSAA.
UHSAA is a private organization and faces real risks of insolvency and bankruptcy, putting our entire state athletics program at risk. Having just completed a lengthy and very expensive legal battle, the organization does not have significant reserves. Additionally, UHSAA has made it clear that if the state ever attempted a ban, the state would also have to pay damages to indemnify the organization in the upcoming lawsuit. Unfortunately, HB11 does not offer financial protection to UHSAA, only an explicit solicitation of a lawsuit. With multiple lawsuits already pending across the country, why would Utah insist—even encourage—expensive and debilitating legal action without recourse to the organization that serves our own student athletes and schools? I hope you can agree that the bankruptcy of the institution responsible for her participation is a bad starting point if we are to protect women’s sport.
Second, the 2023 NBA All-Star Game, slated to be hosted by the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City and expected to have over $50 million in direct economic impact, could be in jeopardy if the law passes.
Although the league hasn’t outright said it would move the All-Star events to another city if HB11 passes, precedents seem to indicate the game will be drawn and the NBA is monitoring the situation.
“We are working closely with Jazz on this matter,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass told Deseret News.
A 2016 North Carolina bill (HB2) that limited antidiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and forced schools and government agencies to only allow people to use bathrooms that matched the gender they were assigned at birth led to the NBA moving the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.
The city was able to host the event later in 2019 after the law was repealed.
Other major sports leagues, as well as the NCAA, have also pulled high-level events from cities when legislation in the host states was deemed discriminatory, including MLB, which pulled its 2021 All-Star game from Atlanta when Georgia passed a restrictive voting law.
The Utah Jazz organization has not yet commented on the situation. But minority owner Dwyane Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union are parents to a transgender daughter and have been very public in supporting her and campaigning for inclusion.
Jazz majority owner Ryan Smith took to social media this week against HB11, saying: “We gotta love these kids. This bill was hasty, flawed and will not stand the test of time. I’m confident we can find a better way.”
As the Deseret News editorial board put it, “HB11 scores political points regardless of the implications for transgender students or the cost of an expensive taxpayer-funded lawsuit.”
Additionally, the state could risk losing events like the NBA All-Star Game, which could be a huge boon to the local economy.