Brook Watts, the Race Director of the CX World Championships in 2022 which are due to take place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, has issued a statement following the passing of recent legislation that bans trans athletes from taking part in some sports in Arkansas.
Arkansas is just one of many US states in which legislation has either been proposed or passed that bans trans women and girls from taking part in school and university sports consistent with their gender identity. While these bills have attracted controversy in many states, the issue has been brought into sharp focus in Arkansas due to its hosting of the CX World Championships.
With the CX World Championships being a UCI event, campaigners argue that preventing trans athletes from participating in sports is against the UCI’s constitution which states:
The UCI will carry out its activities in compliance with the principles of:UCI constitution
a) equality between all the members and all the athletes, licence-holders and officials, without racial, political, religious, gender-related or other discrimination;
We believe that sport is inclusive. People should feel comfortable participating in cycling, regardless of gender, gender identity, race, class, or any other perceived difference. Cycling is a global sport that benefits from diversity in all ways.USA Cycling, Inclusion and Diversity mission statement
As the recently passed bill addresses school and university sports, it appears that the ban will not directly prevent athletes from participating the the CX World Championships, but some campaigners say that the race should not go ahead in a location where the law does not support the UCI’s constitution and policies. Race Director Brook Watts has issued the following statement, expressing his objections to the legislation but encouraging riders to continue to support the event and instead to donate to an organisation working to oppose the legislation:
I usually keep my political views to myself but I cannot keep silent about what’s going on in Arkansas. The decision made by Gov. Hutchinson to sign SB-354, a bill that bans transgender women and girls from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity is discriminatory and hateful.Brook Watts, Race Director
This bigotry and harm on the part of the governor and the state legislature completely contradicts the community I’ve gotten to know in the past 36 months as race organizer contracted by the City of Fayetteville. The community of Fayetteville that I know is one that is accepting and affirming to all genders. This community – the local racers, hard-working local businesses, race personnel and hundreds of volunteers, have worked incredibly hard to put this event on, and we owe it to them to see it through to fruition in Fayetteville.
Now more than ever, we are committed to creating an event that is safe and affirming to our GBTQIA athletes, spectators and staff and I hope you’ll join us in January.
I understand those who feel the need to boycott this event in light of this legislation – I share your anger towards this blatant discrimination. However, I encourage you to think of the community that has worked to make this happen and instead, take action in another way. Consider donating to one of the many organizations in Arkansas that are fighting to make the state inclusive for transgender, non-binary, and gender non-confirming individuals such as the Fayetteville Trans Equality Network @transequalitynetwork or the www.aclu.org.
Some riders and campaigners have said they won’t be attending the event following the passage of this legislation, and have encouraged athletes and team to write to the UCI and their federations to object to the event going ahead.
The CX World Championships is a major event seen as an opportunity to showcase an area to the wider world, and it’s thought that the Walton Foundation’s financial backing has been instrumental securing the event. Based in Bentonville, Arkansas, just north of Fayetteville, the presence of the Walton Foundation and Walmart HQ (both were founded by the Walton family) has seen the area’s economy grow and Bentonville become a hot new mountain bike destination. However, the Bentonville and Fayetteville areas are seen as liberal outliers in a state that is socially conservative – recent legislation banning abortion in the state had already attracted calls from some to reconsider where they spend their money, and there are more legislative proposals waiting for consideration that include restrictions on medical treatment for trans people.
Campaigners have highlighted the potential influence of major sports events – and associated money – in changing the course of legislation. Whether the CX World Championships becomes subject to an official stance from any cycling governing bodies, or a coordinated move on the part of athletes, riders and visitors, remains to be seen.