Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) blasted an attempt by Republican lawmakers to attach a provision barring transgender athletes from sports teams aligning with their gender identity to a bill that would allow college athletes to seek endorsement deals.
Calling the two measures “totally unrelated,” Kelly criticized Republicans for attempting to revive a transgender sports ban after they failed to override her veto of a stand-alone bill restricting transgender students to playing only on teams designated for their assigned sex at birth.
Under the athlete compensation bill, Kansas colleges and universities would be barred from using the name, image, or likeness without compensating them. Athletes would not be paid directly, but would be allowed to sign with an agent and profit off their own name, image, or likeness in various ways, such as by penning an endorsement deal with a local business or promoting certain brands on their social media accounts.
But Senate President Ty Masterson (R-Andover) says he doesn’t want to take up the athlete compensation bill without reconsidering a ban on transgender athletes in K-12 and collegiate sports, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Stretching the boundaries of reason and logic, Masterson said he saw the issue of transgender participation and athlete endorsements as inextricably linked, arguing that transgender athletes might profit off their participation on women’s sports teams.
“The most notable female athletes, absent this kind of protection, could potentially [be] biologically male, and we don’t want to create more confusion or [incentivize] more discrimination against our young women,” Masterson said.
But Kelly balked at Masterson’s comments, saying added that if either the trans athlete ban or the sports compensation measure comes before the legislature, they should be approved as a stand-alone bill.
If Republicans insist on tying the two issues together in one bill, the fate of the measure remains uncertain, as many people who support the compensation bill might be inclined to vote for it, regardless of the “poison pill” for trans athletes contained within it.
Lawmakers have until the end of the month to pass the bill, when legislators will meet for “sine die,” which gives them one final chance to push through any last-minute legislation before the clock runs out on the legislative calendar.
House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Jr., also attempted to link both measures by casting opponents as kowtowing to the will of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He noted that the NCAA has previously warned states that they may risk losing the chance to host sporting events if they pass bills viewed as hostile to the LGBTQ community, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.
“This year the NCAA threw its weight around on the issue of fairness in women’s sports by opposing a bill to ensure a level playing field for girls and women,” Ryckman said. “Now they oppose the name image and likeness bill that would help fix the unfair system that keeps college athletes from having any portion of the money when others use their names or images for profit. I see no reason to let the NCAA and unfairness win a second time this session.”
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