Basketball Australia has stepped in on a transgender debate sweeping across the sport – convening its own panel to determine whether a transgender player can compete in Victoria’s NBL1 South women’s competition this year.
The competition is a second tier league considered one grade below the WNBL.
While decisions around who can and can’t play in the competition would normally be reserved for Basketball Victoria, the national governing body has taken over the process on this occasion after days of heated debate.
“Basketball Australia (BA) has convened a panel to assess the application of a transgender athlete who has requested to play in the NBL1 South competition,” a Basketball Australia statement read.
“While Basketball Victoria determines the eligibility of athletes who play in their competitions, in the interest of the sport and all athletes, BA’s panel will now assess this application.
“We understand this is a complex and challenging issue and it is our intent to expedite the decision and provide clarity to all athletes and the basketball community. Given the nature of this case, we ask for respectful commentary.”
Basketball Australia outlined that its panel will be led by the following three people:
Meanwhile, Basketball Victoria declined to provide details of the application process in a statement provided to news.com.au.
“At this stage we won’t make any further public comment in the short term due to the ongoing process and the subsequent decision of participation for this athlete still being in progress, in addition to the current public debate which has an influence on the wellbeing of all involved with the situation,” a Basketball Victoria spokesman said.
The athlete wants to play for the Kilsyth Cobras, Kilsyth Basketball boss Will van Poppel has confirmed.
The association has been supporting the player through the application process, which has included medical and physical testing.
The chief executive said the matter was first raised when the player approached women’s team head coach Hannah Lowe in December before the player was given an opportunity to participate in tryouts ahead of an eligibility assessment.
The player has been able to train with the squad while her eligibility has remained uncertain in recent months, but is not expected to participate in the team’s pre-season Blitz event in Melbourne this weekend, according to The Age.
However, the player could be available for selection ahead of the team’s season opener against Geelong Supercats on April 1, depending on the results of the Basketball Australia process.
The situation has sparked swirling debate after former NBA star Andrew Bogut voiced his disapproval at the pending decision.
Basketball Australia on Tuesday night released a statement asking for patience and hit out at “hurtful” commentary that has surrounded the situation.
“Basketball Australia (BA) prides itself on being a sport for all, ensuring all participants experience a welcoming, fair and inclusive environment,” the association said in a statement.
“It’s been disappointing to see the negative commentary and hurtful language used across social media over the past 24 hours since it was made public that Basketball Victoria had received an application for a transgender athlete to play in the NBL1 South competition.
“We ask for patience and understanding as we support Basketball Victoria in navigating through this complex space with integrity and respect for all involved, and also thank those in the community who have shown sensitivities at this time.”
Meanwhile, a number of high profile basketball figures have spoken out in support of the transgender player, while hitting out at Bogut’s claims.
Current NBL1 player Chloe Bibby shut down arguments over the debate, insisting she has nothing but respect for the individual.
“As someone who plays in the NBL1, I don’t care what they identify as or their pronouns, she/her, they/them, he/him because regardless I’m still gone try beat their ass on court,” Bibby tweeted.
“They want to play ball & I have nothing but the upmost respect for this person. Go kill it queen.”
Aussie basketball icon Michelle Timms said it was “sad” for the athlete to face such public scrutiny.
“I’d have no problem at all with it,” Timms, a three-time Olympian and Hall of Famer, told News Corp.
“This person has already been through enough in making this decision and for this to blow up the way it has, I feel a lot of empathy for the person.