Effective June 23, 1972, Title IX was passed into law to protect against discrimination based on sex in educational programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. It’s a short statute — just 37 words — given a broad scope by Supreme Court decisions and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.
It has often been used as a scapegoat in sports even though it was not originally written about sports.
Here are a handful of misconceptions surrounding the federal civil rights law celebrating its 50th birthday.
Title IX is the reason your school doesn’t have (baseball, wrestling, etc.)
When cuts have come to athletic departments (especially when it comes to getting rid of men’s programs), Title IX is often blamed.
“There is no baseball because schools have chosen not to be compliant with Title IX,” Felice Duffy of Duffy Law said. Duffy has been involved with Title IX complaints since a 1979 action against UConn as an undergraduate to compel the creation of a woman’s soccer program.
“Schools are absolutely allowed to do whatever they want to bring athletics into equity. They do not need to cut men’s sports.”
Donna Lopiano is the president of Sports Management Resources, which offers consulting services. According to the company website, Lopiano has testified about Title IX and gender equity before three congressional committees and has been an expert witness in over 40 court cases.
“The data suggests what is at fault is basketball and football programs who need a hell of a lot more money to operate lavishly than they currently have,” Lopiano said. “They know they can’t attack women’s sports and they can’t drop a women’s sports program because then they’ll get sued, because they’re not giving women equal opportunity in sport. So they pick on men’s minor sports.”
Per ESPN, during a four-year span from 1984-88 when Title IX was not enforced for athletic departments, NCAA schools still dropped 53 wrestling programs.
Title IX is an athletics law
It was popularized that way, Lopiano said. But it was not written that way.
“As a matter of fact, it was originally passed to make sure that women weren’t continuing to face quotas on their admission to law schools, medical schools, graduate programs to get into the highest-paying professions,” Lopiano said.
Title IX doesn’t protect transgender athletes
This is an evolving matter.
In 2021, U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a Notice of Interpretation explaining that it will enforce Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and discrimination based on gender identity.
The department’s interpretation stems from the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, issued the previous year, in which the Supreme Court recognized that it is impossible to discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation or gender identity without discriminating against that person based on sex.
“There’s no legal statute that exists that would protect transgender individuals,” Lopiano said. “We do know with regard to employment and things other than sport that the Bostock Supreme Court decision included transgender (individuals) under LGBTQ protection rights. But that specifically excluded sports, locker rooms and restrooms. There is no statutory congressional law that has changed the definition of sex to gender identity.”
At the end of the day, women are less interested in sports than men
Lopiano wants to dispel this argument.
“There’s plenty of opportunity out there,” she said. “What restricts access to the sport is the not starting (of) the team, not the interest.”
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