The National Collegiate Athletic Association has proven to be steadfast in its support of the LGBTQ+ community in recent years. Collegiate sports governing body points to its core values to support all athletes.

Here are three examples

Michael Sam

Michael Sam

Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam waves to the crowd during a time out in the the University of Missouri and South Dakota State University football game at Faurot Field on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL was cut Saturday by the St. Louis Rams. (Shane Keyser/Kansas City Star/MCT)

In 2014, the collegiate sports world entered the social spotlight when University of Missouri’s Michael Sam came out as gay. Sam, a football player and 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, sparked both outrage and support by making the announcement following his senior year.

Sam came out to his teammates before the season and helped lead the Tigers to a 12-2 season and the SEC East championship, recording ten sacks and 17.5 tackles for losses.

Adding extra controversy to the situation was Missouri’s recent addition to the Southeastern Conference and the socially conservative nature of most followers of the conference.

“There will always be haters,” Sam told Esquire about the backlash in 2015. “Small heroes can change society every day. It just takes time.”

In March 2014, Sam became the first openly homosexual athlete to be drafted in an American major sport. After being drafted in the seventh round by the Rams, Sam played for a year in the NFL before being cut. 

The NCAA backed Sam when the Hitchcock, Texas native came out, reiterating its core values of equality, inclusion, fairness and respect. 

North Carolina bathroom law

North Carolina Bathroom Bill

Map of laws governing bathroom usage after North Carolina's governor signed a bill partially repealing House Bill 2, a law which required people to use public restrooms according to their gender on birth certificate. TNS 2017

The NCAA was forced to put its money where its mouth was in 2016 when the state of North Carolina passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, known most for its controversial clauses about transgender bathroom rights. The law forced citizens to use the bathroom of the gender they were born with, and was heavily criticized for restricting rights of transgender citizens

Responding, the NCAA banned North Carolina from hosting championship events until 2019. The Atlantic Coast Conference followed the NCAA in its ban, moving the 2017 ACC basketball tournament away from Greensboro.

“The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount,” ACC commissioner John Swafford said in a news release about the decision.

“Today’s decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships.” 

Iconic Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski backed both the ACC and NCAA, calling the bill “embarrassing” and electing not to comment any further.

Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act

NCAA president Mark Emmert

NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert speaks to the media during the Final Four news conference in Atlanta on April 4, 2013. (Johnny Crawford/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

The NCAA was also crucial in forcing reforms to the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act by moving the 2015 Final Four away from Indianapolis.

“We made very clear that we wanted this resolved as quickly as possible,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said. “This bill is more important than a basketball tournament.”

The fast action by Emmert and his staff was widely praised for helping resolves the situation quickly.

While many in the collegiate sports world still have conservative social views, the NCAA continues to help spark social change on and off the field, court and ice.

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