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Victoria Coley
Victoria Coley
April 20, 2023 - 8 minutes
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UNC Female Athletes Join IWN Denver Leader and IWV Spokeswoman Riley Gaines to Urge North Carolina General Assembly to Save Women’s Sports

Raleigh, NC – Independent Women’s Voice (IWV), the nation’s leading national women’s organization, and members of its grassroots arm, Independent Women’s Network (IWN), joined North Carolina lawmakers to advocate for SB 631 and HB 574, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.

IWV spokeswoman Riley Gaines met with lawmakers in person, while IWN Chapter Leader Megan Burke, a two-time NCAA champion runner from the University of North Carolina, organized a number of other UNC female athletes to join her in submitting testimony in support of the legislation as amended to include current and future female college athletes in North Carolina. 

Speaking out for the first time since being severely injured by a male athlete participating on the women’s volleyball team, Payton McNabb, a North Carolina high school athlete at Hiwassee Dam High School, testified alongside Gaines detailing her traumatic experience that left her with a severe concussion, vision impairment, and other ongoing health challenges.

Payton McNabb, a North Carolina high school athlete at Hiwassee Dam High School (left), and Riley Gaines, 12x All-American Swimmer from the University of Kentucky and IWF Spokeswoman (right).

These fearless advocates for protecting the integrity of women’s sports came together to share their voice through Independent Women’s Network. IWN was created to build a supportive and engaging community for independently-minded women to come together to make a positive difference – in this case preventing the erasure of women in sports.

In partnership and coordination with the IWN, Independent Women’s Forum works with athletes nationwide to help share their voice on this issue. Stories from female athletes can be found here.

As the number of male-bodied athletes seeking to compete on women’s teams and in women’s events grows, the risks to female athletes also grow. Claims to the contrary deny science, defy logic, and undermine Title IX. That’s why Independent Women’s Law Center and Independent Women’s Forum have published “Competition Report: Title IX, Male-Bodied Athletes, and the Threat To Women’s Sports”. This comprehensive report can be viewed here

The NC House passed HB 474 with bipartisan support and with enough votes to override a veto. The Senate vote is expected later today.

Testimonies Submitted by Independent Women’s Voice:

“Across the country, and across various sports, female athletes, particularly at the college and high school level, are losing not only awards but opportunities to compete at all. This is simply unacceptable. It undermines the integrity of women’s sports. It is unfair, and it is discriminatory. And it must stop. And that is why I implore you to please pass legislation that preserves women’s athletic opportunities at all levels.”

  • Riley Gaines, Independent Women’s Voice spokeswoman and 12x All-American swimmer at the University of Kentucky [Full Testimony Here]

“I gained so much from sports and my time competing at The University of North Carolina, and sadly my two little girls may not be afforded the same opportunities. It’s time for states like North Carolina to step up and pass legislation such as this bill to help save Women’s sports. Otherwise before we know it every female record will be broken by biological males identifying as women, and we won’t be able to get them back.”

  • Megan Burke, Chapter Director, Independent Women’s Network, 2-time NCAA champion runner at, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, American Record holder, and college Track and Cross-Country athlete [Full Testimony Here]

“I am a former NCAA athlete and am writing in support of Women’s Sports Bill SB631 to protect women’s sports by having athletes compete with the gender they were biologically born. Women’s sports has come so far in equality over the last 50 years and biological males competing against biological females would be a step backwards. Please do what you can to protect opportunities for young girls in the state of North Carolina.”

  • Alli Van Schaack, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Class of 2008, Member of the 2007 NCAA champion women’s field hockey team [Full Testimony Here]

“As a former collegiate and Team USA athlete, I am writing in support of the Women’s Sports Bill SB631. I urge you to protect women’s sports and the opportunities that it provides girls from a young age, by requiring athletes to participate on teams based on their biological sex. If women and girls must compete with biological men in their sports, we will be taking a step backwards in the progress we have made for women and sports in the last 50 years. Please support this bill and the young women in the State of North Carolina.”

  • Jesse Gey Duke, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Class of 2008, member of the UNC 07’ NCAA national championship women’s field hockey team and 2008 USA Olympic Field Hockey team [Full Testimony Here]

“I am writing in support of the Women’s Sports Bill SB631. As a former NCAA athlete at the University of North Carolina, I’m passionate about this topic so we can protect women’s sports. As we all know, there are physical and biological differences between females and males that affect athletic performance. Having biological males compete against biological females is simply unfair giving the biological males advantages.”

  • Katelyn Conlon, former NCAA athlete at the University of North Carolina [Full Testimony Here]

“Being a girl and then a woman in sport MADE me who I am. I learned how to push my body to the limits and gained confidence in my strength, will, power and humanity. I learned how to continue bravely through tough times and how to lose and wake up the next day and try harder. I made friendships for life – some of my best friends. Through thick and thin I learned how to be a teammate, a partner, to support others and work together for a greater cause. All these qualities set me up to bravely face all that life throws your way – and it throws a lot. Sport made me who I am. You have the chance to allow generations of girls to gain these same advantages I did through sports. Please keep female sports fair & safe by only letting biological girls/women compete in the female sports.”

  • Cassie Link, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill track and cross country athlete [Full Testimony Here]

I am a former NCAA athlete and am writing in support of Women’s Sports Bill SB631 to protect women’s sports. I believe that athletes should be competing against athletes born from the same biological gender in order to create a fair and safe playing arena. As someone who has competed at a high level I know the dedication and focus it takes to be at the top of your respective sport. Anatomically and physiologically the advantages for male born athletes are clear. Allowing male born athletes into women’s sports creates an environment that is disheartening, demoralizing and unsafe for biological women. Please do what you can to protect opportunities for young girls in the state of North Carolina.

  • Laura Cummings, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Track & Field and Cross-Country Athlete, 2005-2007 [Full Testimony Here]

“My name is Carol Henry, a former UNC Division 1 track and field athlete, Canadian National Record Holder, NCAA bronze medalist and 10 time all american. My experience competing in sports as a female athlete has been invaluable and provided me with many opportunities that I otherwise would not have had. It taught me at a young age that hard work and self discipline pay off and instilled a sense of confidence that has allowed me to excel beyond sports. Additionally, many of my closest friendships were formed during my athletic career with other female athletes working towards a common goal, supporting one another – a bond that has proved to be irreplaceable. Competing and excelling in sports has had such a positive impact on my life. I urge you to keep women sports fair and give young girls of today the same opportunities and experiences I was so fortunate to have.”

  • Carol Henry, former track athlete at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Canadian record holder, NCAA bronze medalist and 10-time all American [Full Testimony Here]

“Independent Women’s Law Center has produced an authoritative report, Competition, that documents this male athletic advantage. The report collects scientific studies showing that males have larger hearts and lungs, different skeletal structures, more hemoglobin, and more muscle mass on average than females. These differences allow most men to throw farther, run and accelerate faster, punch harder, and jump higher than women. These differences only grow as children do, and puberty confers a significant and lasting advantage that can never be fully reversed – even with hormone therapy.”

  • Hadley Heath Manning, from Shelby, NC, and University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Class of 2010 [Full Testimony Here]


Independent Women’s Voice fights for women by expanding support for policy solutions that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance freedom, opportunities, and well-being. 

Independent Women’s Network, a project of Independent Women’s Voice, in partnership with Independent Women’s Forum, is a positive, supportive community of engaged, informed, and activated women working together to inspire, interact, influence, and have impact.

Victoria Coley
Victoria Coley
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