Kristi Noem Plays the Long Game to Protect Women’s Sports

Harry Hamburg

Somehow Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has managed to enrage both sides of the “transgendered” athlete issue.

Governor Noem made a simple statement on March 22, 2021, that “girls should play girls sports based on their birth certificates.” The Rapid City Journal reported on March 21, 2021, “since announcing Friday she wouldn’t sign House Bill 1217, the governor has faced heavy backlash from supporters of the bill, including high-profile conservatives who say it’s about ensuring fairness in women’s sports, and the LGBTQ community and its allies, who say Noem’s desire to keep the ban from applying to collegiate sports isn’t good enough.” One would think it relatively noncontroversial to say that boys should play boys’ sports and girls should play girls’ sports, yet the woke Left will not tolerate anybody who disagrees with them on allowing biological males to complete with biological women.


Liberals are outraged that Governor Noem is trying to defend her state’s youth sports programs from the possibility of biological boys competing in girls’ sports. Conservatives are mad because she has refused to sign legislation pending in the South Dakota legislature that may be vague and overbroad in the application of this law to college sports, among other issues. The governor clearly wants to keep women’s sports for women, yet she is being attacked by many on the Right for not rubber stamping the bill.

The truth is more complex. As a responsible governor, Noem is protecting her state’s college athletics program from the woke NCAA. As we have witnessed over the years, our colleges have become incubators for the woke mob that has lashed out to ban books and cancel non-woke actors. One needs to look no further than Teen Vogue to see the most recent ridiculous outcome of the intolerant Left. When fighting these tyrants, it is important to fight smart and not to give the Left the upper hand.

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The concern is that for a good headline, the governor may be sacrificing South Dakota’s ability to host events and participate fully in NCAA competition. Noem has rolled out a different strategy with a more nuanced approach. She is leading a group to defend women’s sports titled “Defend Title IX Now.” The goal is to protect fairness for women’s sports and to protect states and schools that are under attack.

The effort focusses on rounding up states to oppose biological males competing in college athletics without the fear of the NCAA making an example out of one state. Remember how North Carolina reacted when the bathroom controversy made that state the focus of left-wing boycotts and protests – they caved. It seems like a brilliant strategy to get the states to team up and prepare for the fight without the pain of a South Dakota NCAA boycott.


The goal of Title IX was to level the playing field between women’s and men’s sports. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in education or in activities that receive federal funds. This has led to more cash flowing to women sports. Any effort to muddle the issue will lead to women’s sports becoming a political football rather than a place for women athletes to strive. Americans should be happy that Governor Noem is trying to both protect her state’s male and female athletes from the woke NCAA punishing South Dakota for passing this law and her efforts to focus on strengthening Title IX.

Maybe Governor Noem’s biggest political problem now is that she is acting like a responsible governor and not a 2024 presidential candidate. Had she only cared about 2024 politics, Gov. Noem would have signed the bill and let her state become a battleground between the radical Left and student athletes. Being a governor, she seems to be trying to avoid making student athletes pay the price for her signing a bill that needs some tightening up.

Either way, this will be a long battle and Gov. Noem will be judged by the results over the next few years. While many conservatives reflexively think the governor should sign the bill, maybe they will seethes as a better strategy over time.

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