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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Guardian sport

Basketball Australia rules transgender athlete Lexi Rodgers ineligible to play

Lexi Rodgers spoke about her application to play semi-professional basketball on Under The Surface podcast.
Lexi Rodgers spoke about her application to play semi-professional basketball on Under The Surface podcast. Photograph: Under The Surface with Anneli Maley/Youtube

Basketball Australia has told the transgender athlete Lexi Rodgers she is ineligible to play elite level basketball this season.

Rodgers had been hoping to play for the Kilsyth Cobras in the the NBL1 South women’s semi-professional basketball league that sits below the professional NBL and WNBL leagues, and is made up of North, South, East, West and Central conferences.

To assess Rodgers’ case BA convened an expert panel led by Dr Peter Harcourt (BA chief medical officer, Commonwealth Games medical advisor), Suzy Batkovic OLY (BA board member, three-time Olympian) and Assoc Prof Diana Robinson.

BA said in a statement they assess eligibility of prospective elite-level transgender athletes “on a ‘case-by-case’ basis, accounting for and balancing a range of factors”, without specifying those factors.

“We’re still on a path of education and understanding,” the governing body acknowledged. “The balance of inclusivity, fairness and the competitive nature of sport will always be a complex area to navigate, and we thank those involved who have maintained integrity and respect throughout the process.”

Basketball Australia’s director, Suzy Batkovic, said: “I’d like to acknowledge and sincerely thank Lexi for her cooperation, understanding and patience throughout this process – it’s a complex space that continues to evolve.

“While Lexi is understandably disappointed with the outcome, I know she’ll continue to support her NBL1 South team throughout the season and be an active member of the basketball community.

In informing Rodgers and the Kilsyth Cobras of the decision, Batkovic added: “I also want to make it clear, because it’s important, that while this particular application was not approved based on criteria for elite competition, Basketball Australia encourages and promotes inclusivity at community level.”

Rodgers was a talented junior player but has previously acknowledged that transitioning might preclude her from playing the sport at the highest level, including her ultimate dream of representing the Opals.

In response to BA’s decision, Rodgers expressed her disappointment with the ruling and the message it projects.

“I sought a different outcome from Basketball Australia,” Rodgers wrote in an Instagram post. “I participated fully and in good faith with the process and eligibility criteria. Consistent with the views expressed by so many, I firmly believe I have a place as an athlete in women’s basketball.

“Basketball is one of the great loves of my life. Like so many people who play every week across the country, the basketball court is where I feel safe, where I feel free, and where I feel I belong.

“The backing of the players, coaches, my club and grassroots members has been overwhelming. I am so grateful for their desire to have me as part of their community. Such support fills me with pride, but also sends an honest message of equality to those who are also seeking belonging within sport.

Rodgers said she would continue to advocate for transgender athletes and gender-diverse inclusion in sports.

“I hope Basketball Australia understands that this is not the end of my journey as an athlete and that it must not miss future opportunities to demonstrate its values,” she 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.

“I hope to one day be playing elite women’s basketball in the future and will continue to work on making the sport I love a place for all.”

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