Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was named Mark Emmert’s successor as president of the NCAA on Thursday as the organization looks to navigate through some murky waters in 2023 and beyond.
One of the issues the NCAA faced over the course of the 2021-2022 athletics season was the rise of transgender female athlete Lia Thomas, who won an NCAA and Ivy League championship during the women’s swim season. Thomas’ participation caused controversy and sparked wide-ranging changes among several sports.
Many believed Thomas didn’t belong in the pool competing against biological females, suggesting Thomas had a distinct advantage over others. Thomas was able to participate in the NCAA Championships as the organization developed a policy to put into place for the 2022-2023 academic year.
On Thursday, a woman’s group expressed hope that Baker’s appointment to the role would be a sign that the NCAA is committed to protecting female athletes in sports.
“Charlie Baker’s appointment could be a desperately needed reset in the NCAA for female athletes, and we hope he stands up to lead,” Concerned Women for America CEO and President Penny Nance said in a statement. “As the spouse of a former college athlete and someone devoted to children’s wellbeing, we expect Gov. Baker to understand that female athletes should never be subject to harassment, intimidation, and discrimination as they are experiencing in today’s NCAA.”
“Outgoing NCAA President Mark Emmert has overseen a decade of degradation of college women’s sports, treating females as second class athletes and an outright denial of our status as women by allowing males like Lia Thomas to compete in women’s sports,” Nance continued. “Forcing female athletes to stand down so men can steal their scholarships and their trophies, invade their locker rooms and their events has been the ultimate act of discrimination against women.”
NCAA NAMES MASSACHUSETTS GOV. CHARLIE BAKER NEXT PRESIDENT
“We call on Baylor President Linda Livingstone, chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, and Gov. Baker to end the exclusion of female athletes in their own sports and cease denying their rights to equity and fairness in sport. Title IX was meant to level the playing field, but allowing men to compete in female sports strikes a blow to that equity.”
Baker, a Republican, will have a lot to navigate through as he steps in for Emmert. But he said in his introductory press conference that he is ready and willing to meet those challenges.
“I’ve always just believed that sports have this tremendous power to bring people together,” Baker said in a statement. “You just see it over and over again, the way in which athletics can transcend so many other divisions. I really do believe that we are at a bit of a pivotal period for the NCAA, and I really do think that the enthusiasm, the life and professional experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve gotten to know, the relationships I have can be a big part of helping all the folks involved in the NCAA, wherever they fit in that very significant organization, benefit from what we can put together going forward if we work together.”
“I really do think the challenge is significant, but the possibilities and the opportunities if we are successful are enormous, and I’m very honored and grateful for this chance to serve,” he continued.
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