Female athletes on sports fairness: ‘We will continue to fight’

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“Big picture: These women aren’t losing to male athletes. These women aren’t being robbed of their titles by male athletes. These women are losing and being robbed by corrupt politicians and school executives who substitute science, facts, and common sense with subjectivism, personal preference, and career-securing policies.”

–JOHN WESLEY REID


Women have been at the forefront of the court of public opinion for some years now. In some ways, culture is winning for women, such as the overturn of Roe v. Wade which empowered the abortion industry to rob women of their motherhood. Thankfully, many are taking the pro-life battle to the states where regulatory power now rests.

But culture is also failing women in many ways, specifically by nixing the equality women once had in athletics. “Transgender women” (here on out referred to as “men”) have been notoriously intruding onto what was once an equal playing field for women in college sports. This equal playing field was secured by Title IX, which became law in 1972.

Men shouldn’t compete in women’s sports. Such a claim would have been in common agreement in recent yesteryears, but today we find ourselves immersed in a cultural, spiritual, and legal battle in defense of women’s equality in sports. Thankfully, Christian legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has taken up the fight, defending several women across the United States who are determined to secure fairness in women’s sports.

Last month, on the golden anniversary of Title IX, the Biden administration amended the law in a way that can severely retract the progress women have made over the last five decades.

Senior Counsel for ADF Christiana Kiefer denounced the move, saying,

“Fifty years ago, Congress acted to protect equal opportunity for women by passing Title IX. Now, by radically rewriting federal law, the Biden administration is threatening the advancements women have long fought to achieve in education and athletics. In addition to denying women a fair and level playing field in sports, this new rule could impose widespread harms, including threatening the health of adults and children, denying free speech on campus, trampling parental rights, violating religious liberty, and endangering unborn human life.”

Kiefer and two of her clients, Madison Kenyona and Lainey Armistead, joined the Standing for Freedom Center to share their stories and their strategy moving forward.


Kenyon, a track and cross-country athlete at Idaho State University, said of Biden’s move,

“It’s such a slap in the face to females because it’s not listening to us. It’s saying that we don’t matter and that our sports aren’t important, but in reality, it is. And these opportunities are so important for us to be able to have and preserve and Title IX did that before today.”

Kenyon also described some of her own experiences competing against a man and contended that the new Title IX changes put women’s dreams in “jeopardy.”

“As a cross-country runner for Idaho State University, I’ve been forced to compete repeatedly against a male athlete — and lost each and every race. Losing unfairly to someone who has natural advantages is frustrating and disheartening. Title IX opened doors for female athletes to chase their dreams and be rewarded for their hard work. Now, those same opportunities are in jeopardy for young women across the country, which is why we must continue fighting to preserve the category of female sports.”

Lainey Armistead, a soccer athlete at West Virginia State University, said that competing with boys in pickup games was enough for her to realize the physical contrast between men and women.

“Well, with my experiences playing soccer since I was very little and then growing up with brothers and playing against boys [in] pickup games and everything like that, I realized from a very young age the difference between our bodies with women and biological males, and I wanted to fight for women not only in West Virginia, but everywhere. There’s women like Madi and all the other athletes who I’ve been able to meet, who I totally feel for their stories, and I just want to make sure that doesn’t happen to any other girls.”

Kiefer described one example from Connecticut in 2019 of how this unfairness is tangibly impacting female athletes’ accomplishments.

“Two biological males in the state of Connecticut took 15 women’s state championship titles over the course of just a few seasons and knocked out deserving female athletes from placements and podium spots, championship titles, and potential scholarship opportunities. We’ll never know fully how many young women across the state of Connecticut were impacted, so Alliance Defending Freedom had the privilege of filing the first federal lawsuit in the nation on their behalf. And it’s been a privilege to just watch the number of female voices across the country grow, because courage begets courage, and so as they see other women standing up and speaking out, it gives courage to future generations of female athletes to do the same.”

Kenyon said that while there is room for disagreement on what should be done, her teammates agree that the physical contrasts create an unfair playing field for women.

“I actually witnessed a teammate of mine get bumped off a podium due to losing to a biological male, and I’ve talked to her about it and I’ve talked to other teammates about it and all of us do agree it’s unfair.”

Armistead and Kenyon speak with authority and experience on the issue of women’s sports, and their battles for fairness are admirable. Both Armistead and Kenyon provided encouragement to other young women who are facing the same unfair circumstances. Armistead noted that the inevitable fear of battling this matter can be reconciled with the fact that there is much support behind women pursuing fairness:

Keep competing, and there’s women who are so supportive. We saw that today that so many women came out and were supportive, and it might be nerve-wracking taking the first step, but now that we’ve done that I know that we’ve had such an amazing opportunity, and just being able to be around women who are so supportive and enlightening, it’s amazing.”

Kenyon encouraged women to make their voices known to their legislators and show them that they’re willing to fight for fairness.

“I would tell those girls: Don’t give up. If you have an opportunity to compete, go and compete and put everything out there that you have and take the opportunity but to not [quit] fighting and get their voice out there and tell their legislators and their coaches that they want fair competition and it’s something that they want to fight for.”

Kiefer, who has spearheaded the defense for fairness in women’s sports, offered encouragement based on the many clients she represents:

“It’s been a privilege to just watch the number of female voices across the country grow, because courage begets courage, and so as they see other women standing up and speaking out, it gives courage to future generations of female athletes to do the same.”

When we ignore the goodness that God saw in His creation of man and woman, we grease a fiercely adverse trajectory for ourselves.

Let’s be clear: Science beats cultural preference every time. Science isn’t broken, truth isn’t broken, and facts aren’t broken. The depravity of man is the only flawed component of these cultural battles. This idea of gender fluidity should have never been tolerated; indeed, it should have been staunchly opposed. At its inception, the idea of gender fluidity was tolerated because activists insisted that “it doesn’t hurt anybody else.” You’d think by now we would learn to question whether an idea will impact those outside of the immediate focus. Yesterday, transgenderism “didn’t hurt anybody.” Today, college-aged women are losing their rightful places on victory podiums and the awards that they diligently trained for since their elementary school years. When we stray from God’s intent for creation, it will always hurt people.

So what do we do?

Policy won’t change hearts, and hearts need changing. But heart changes are a lengthy process and until they’re reformed, women will still be subject to unfair treatment. This type of unfair treatment demands the same hybrid approach of cultural change and policy reform taken by William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King Jr. Their dual approach is imperative to swift (policy) and lasting (changed hearts) justice in our society. The Great Commission goes beyond our church walls and ministry fields. The Great Commission should saturate every component of how and where we live. This means pursuing people with the Gospel through evangelism and pursuing justice for the oppressed while hearts are won.

Big picture: These women aren’t losing to male athletes. These women aren’t being robbed of their titles by male athletes. These women are losing and being robbed by corrupt politicians and school executives who substitute science, facts, and common sense with subjectivism, personal preference, and career-securing policies. Legal experts like Alliance Defending Freedom have a long record of successful litigation in defense of the oppressed. ADF and others like them are great in their reactionary responses, but this should illuminate a different response, a proactive response, from the rest of us:

Voting.

Last month, the Supreme Court delivered a string of victories for life and liberty. These athletic fairness cases will likely end up before the Supreme Court and, if June 2022 is of any jurisprudential prediction, we’ll hopefully see victory again. But all it takes is one or two bad elections to impact the judiciary in a way that subjects women to unfair athletic competition, creates vulnerability for the unborn, and casts a haunting shadow over individual liberty. This isn’t about a party, since there are bad apples in each camp. This is about values. This is about justice. Remember these stories and the many like it when you vote in this upcoming midterm election.