Suits Seek Gender Equality in Sports in NCAA, High Schools
Women students and their parents are bringing suits against the Michigan High School Athletics Association (MHSAA) and the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) to gain compliance with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs. In the Michigan class-action case, plaintiff Jay Roberts-Eveland claims the high school sports association denies female athletes equal facilities, scheduling, and treatment. The MHSAA argues that the association is exempt from Title IX compliance because of the organization’s non-profit status and voluntary membership. However, a recent U.S. Supreme Court determined that state athletic associations are “state actors” subject to similar constitutional requirements as other public entities.
In a related NCAA case, a female athlete is suing the NCAA for sex discrimination. The NCAA has maintained that since it does not receive federal funds, the association is not required to comply with Title IX laws, leaving it free to treat men and women’s sports inequitably. A federal judge had originally ruled in favor of the NCAA, but the plaintiff, Renee Smith, appealed on the grounds that the NCAA does receive federal funds via colleges and universities and via the National Youth Sports Fund (NYSF), both of which are supported by federal tax dollars. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Smith on the former ground, but left open the possibility that funding from NYSF would require Title IX compliance. The case will likely return to the lower courts for further examination.