Basketball Australia has ruled that Lexi Rodgers, a transgender female player, is ineligible to compete in the second-tier of Australia’s women’s national basketball league, NBL1 South. The decision was made by the organisation’s three-member expert panel who assessed Rodgers’ eligibility on a case-by-case basis at both professional and semiprofessional levels.

Rodgers applied to play for the Melbourne-based Kilsyth Cobras and announced her intentions in a recent podcast, stating that she wanted to put a face to the “trans player” that has become a topic of debate in mainstream and social media. However, Basketball Australia found her to be ineligible and stated that the balance of inclusivity, fairness and the competitive nature of sport is a complex area to navigate.

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Basketball Australia acknowledged that there is still a need for education and understanding and that the decision was not an indication of the end of Rodgers’ journey as an athlete. In response to the ruling, Rodgers said that she still hopes to play at the elite level in the future and that Basketball Australia should not miss future opportunities to demonstrate its values.

In an Instagram post, Rodgers wrote: “I am sad about the potential message this decision sends to trans and gender diverse people everywhere. I hope that one day basketball’s governing body can replicate the inclusion and acceptance I have found on the court with my teammates.”

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Suzy Batkovic, a three-time Olympian and member of Basketball Australia’s expert panel, thanked Rodgers for cooperating in a process that is a “complex space that continues to evolve”. She added that the organisation understands the need to have a clear process and continual education within all layers of the sport to best support players, coaches, clubs, associations and the wider basketball community.

It is not the first time that transgender and gender diverse athletes have faced barriers in competition. Last month, track and field announced a ban on transgender athletes that have transitioned to female from elite women’s international competition. The ban applies to athletes who have transitioned from male to female and have gone through male puberty. The World Athletics Council, which represents the sport’s governing body, adopted the same rules as swimming did in 2022.

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However, the decision by Basketball Australia has highlighted ongoing debate about inclusivity and equality in sports. While the organization acknowledges the need for a balance, it has been criticised for sending the wrong message to transgender and gender diverse people.

Some have pointed to the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines which state that transgender athletes can compete in women’s events without undergoing sex reassignment surgery. The guidelines state that athletes must declare that their gender identity is female and that their testosterone levels must be below a certain limit. However, it remains to be seen how effective these guidelines are when it comes to balancing inclusivity, fairness and the competitive nature of sport.

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The issue of transgender and gender diverse athletes in sport is not going away any time soon. As more athletes come out and share their stories, organizations will have to grapple with how to make sports inclusive and equal for all.

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By James paul

James Patel is a tech journalist with a keen interest in emerging technologies and their impact on society. He is known for his insightful analysis and in-depth coverage of topics such as AI, cybersecurity, and the future of work.

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