Jun 1, 2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Press Conference Transcript: Signs Bill Banning Transgender Athletes From Sports
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a controversial bill banning transgender women and girls from sports on June 1, 2021. Read the transcript of the press briefing speech here.
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Governor DeSantis: (00:10)
Well, good morning. I want to thank Trinity Christian Academy and Pastor Messer for hosting us here today. I actually went to, because they did the state championship football at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, and so I went to the Class 3A football championship, but I had to go back, I couldn’t stay the whole game. And so I was like, “Y’all won, right?” And they’re like, “Yeah, we won the state championship.” So it was really good. I got to speak to the team before the game, and we’re really proud of the sports season as a whole because these are kids that have worked really hard to be able to have this opportunity, and to win a state championship is something they’ll always remember. Heck, even to compete for one is a big deal.
Governor DeSantis: (00:55)
And what I told them, I was just reminded when we were meeting with folks beforehand, what I told them then was true. If they had been in California, they would have been on their couch because they would not have been able to even be allowed to compete in any type of sports. And so we’re proud that we not only … I know they finished the school year here. We were just in Baker County. We had the school year, we had sports, we did everything. That was obviously the right decision. I think the places that lock the kids out of sports and lock the kids out of school, I mean, it’s just a total disaster and they’re going to have to, I think, pay the consequences of those decisions for years and years to come.
Governor DeSantis: (01:31)
We’ve got a great team of folks here. We have our lieutenant governor and attendance. We have Senator Kelli Stargel, Aaron Bean, Jen Bradley, a lot of representatives, Kaylee Tuck, Chris Latvala, Stan McClain, Cord Byrd, Jason Fischer, Chuck Brandon, Wyman Duggan, and Clay Yarbrough. We also have Selina Soule, who’s a former Connecticut high school track athlete who is going to talk about the bill that we had today and how the lack of protections in her state ended up denying her opportunities to be able to compete. We believe in the state of Florida of protecting the fairness and the integrity of women’s athletics.
Governor DeSantis: (02:24)
Being able to compete in a variety of sports in Florida, fortunately, has opportunities across a wide range of sports and we’re very competitive in a number of different sports, provides our young girls with opportunities that really teach them lessons that last a lifetime. And I think the same is true for all of our sports. It certainly was true for me growing up here in the state of Florida, being able to compete and it took me to college. It’s taken many of our girls to college to be able to get an education and to compete. So we believe that it’s very that the integrity of those competitions are preserved, that these opportunities are protected. And I can tell you this in Florida girls are going to play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports. That’s what we’re doing and we’re going to make sure that that’s the reality.
Governor DeSantis: (03:22)
So the bill that we’re doing today will ensure fairness for women athletes for years to come in the state of Florida. It says that athletic teams or sports that are designated for females are open to females. And we’re going to go based off biology, not based off etiology when we’re doing sports. The bill defines a student’s biological sex based on the student’s official birth certificate at the time of birth. And as part of the bill we’re signing today, we’re not only making sure women have opportunities for scholarships and competition at the highest level, we’re also putting in statute ways to actually vindicate the rights of any women athletes who may be discriminated against. So moving forward, any student who’s deprived of an athletic opportunity as a result of a violation of this law will have the right to civil remedies. Any school or public post-secondary institution that suffers direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of this bill, including by a governmental entity, accrediting organization, or athletic association can also pursue civil remedies.
Governor DeSantis: (04:34)
Any student who is subject to retaliation as a result of reporting a violation of this bill can also pursue civil remedies. And so we’re not just setting a standard, we’re also providing ways where that fairness and the equality can be enforced on behalf of our girls and our women athletes. And so one of the reasons why I think this has become an issue is because we’ve seen, particularly in other states, you would have these blatantly unfair track races and all these other things where these girls train and then they end up not being able to advance, to compete in state, or what have you. So we have a quick video, so we’re going to part the Red Sea here for a minute, show the video, and then I’m going to have Selina Soule come up and talk about her story.
Speaker 2: (05:36)
Out of the 100, is in lane five. Chelsea Mitchell in lane six. Mitchell ended up the 100-meter champion after the false start. Michelle Smith in seven. Carly Swierbut eight. Jillian Mars second in the 400 is in nine. Here comes Terry Miller. Miller after the false start, in the one, takes the 200.
Speaker 3: (06:02)
It’s going to be 24 low.
Speaker 2: (06:04)
Terry Miller of Bloomfield in five, the overwhelming favorite. Alanna Smith is in six. Emily Mulhern in seven. Selina Soule in eight. Megan Wassick in nine. And as expected, it is Miller, and then Smith.
Speaker 3: (06:19)
Speaker 2: (06:21)
She just broke her own state open record.
Speaker 3: (06:23)
Governor DeSantis: (06:25)
All right. You guys, come on up. So I think you see in those races, I mean, you have all those girls who are competing and it just wasn’t a level playing field. It wasn’t fair. And Selina is here from Connecticut and she’s going to talk about how this has impacted her opportunities. And so Selina, come on.
Selina Soule: (06:57)
My name is Selina Soule, and I’m a track and field athlete from Connecticut. You may know my story, but if you don’t, I’d like to share how a bad policy in my state of Connecticut has robbed me, my teammates, as well as every other female track athlete in my state, the opportunity to compete on a fair and level playing field. I have been competing in track and field since my mom introduced it to me when I was a little girl. Track means everything to me. I would wake up every morning eager to get on the track, waiting to run, waiting to jump. I love my sport. I’ve spent countless hours trying to shave fractions of a second off of my time so I could be the best because I raced to win.
Selina Soule: (07:32)
But my chances of being first, of being the best were shattered. In 2017, Connecticut began allowing two male athletes who self-identify as girls to compete in girls’ sports. During all four years of high school, I was forced to compete against them, even though they were bigger, stronger, and faster than me because they were male. In just three years, these two athletes won 15 women’s championship titles, and they set 17 new individual meet records, records which we girls had no hope of breaking. I remember what it was like to line up for the race and get into my blocks already knowing the outcome long before the race started. Those two biological males would dominate the field, leaving us girls to compete for third place and beyond. No matter how hard we trained and how hard we pushed ourselves, they beat us time and time again. We elite female athletes don’t give up a normal high school experience just for participation trophies, we raced to win.
Selina Soule: (08:26)
Sports have always had separate rules to ensure fairness. Everyone should have the chance to participate in sports, but they need to compete where it’s most fair. This isn’t about self-expression. This is about our right, a woman’s right to win. I have lost countless opportunities over the past few years. I lost opportunities to compete on world-class tracks and opportunities to win titles. During my junior year, I was denied the chance to compete at the regional New England championships. I missed advancing to the next level of competition in the 55-meter dash by just two spots, two spots that were taken by biological males. It was frustrating, heartbreaking, and demoralizing to be sidelined in my own sport.
Selina Soule: (09:06)
Female athletes deserve the same opportunity as boys to excel and chase our dreams. Allowing male athletes to compete in girls’ sports shatters those dreams and strips away opportunities that so many of us have spent years working to obtain. We must protect the integrity of women’s sports. So I decided to take actions. Three of my fellow female athletes and I filed a lawsuit last year with the Alliance Defending Freedom against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference because girls and women deserve the chance to compete on a fair playing field.
Selina Soule: (09:37)
After reviewing the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, all I can say on behalf of all female athletes is thank you, Governor. As someone who was one of the first to start speaking against this injustice, it is very encouraging that my story has reached people across the country and that many have seen what’s happened in Connecticut and want to take the stand to protect female athletes in their state and to protect women’s sports so no other young girl has to go through the same pain and heartbreak I had to endure my four years of high school. I am grateful to Florida lawmakers and especially Governor DeSantis for preserving fairness and women’s sports and allowing countless young girls and women the opportunity to succeed in the sport that they love.
Selina Soule: (10:22)
As a female athlete, I recognize the opportunities for higher competition are limited, including access to college recruitment, scholarship funds, equal access to facilities, coaches, training opportunities, and even opportunities to play professionally, even decades after Title IX. This bill is about protecting the advances we’ve already made as women in this space and creating a fair opportunity to empower women to aspire and to achieve in the most fair way possible. I only wish the rest of the country would take these obvious steps to ensure fairness and equality for women and girls like me. Once again, thank you, Governor DeSantis.
Governor DeSantis: (11:07)
I want to thank Selena for coming down here from Connecticut. I know she’s in college and she’s actually figuring out maybe she can transfer to a school in Florida. So if you’re out there and you’re doing women’s track, and any of the coaches that are state universities, you may want to give her a call. So we’ll be happy to help with that. So I want to thank the legislators for providing these protections. When this was going on, you heard different things being said about, some of these corporations get all spun up. Some of these organizations say they’re not going to hold events if you do this. And just let me say very clearly, in Florida, we’re going to do what’s right. We’ll stand up to corporations. They are not going to dictate the policies in this state. We will stand up to groups like the NCAA who think that they should be able to dictate the policies in different states. Not here, not ever.
Governor DeSantis: (12:02)
And so we won’t be cowed. We will stand strong. And here’s the thing at the end of the day, if the price of providing opportunities that can last a lifetime for all the girls throughout the state of Florida for ensuring fair competition for them, if the price of that is that we lose an event or two, I would choose to protect our young girls every day of the week and twice on Sunday. So we have the legislators who were the sponsors of the bill. And so I wanted to invite up Senator Kelli Stargel who helped shepherd this through the Florida Senate.
Kelli Stargel: (13:01)
Thank you very much, Governor, for being here. Thank you for signing this hard-fought bill. Many, as we did this bill, through the process tried to make it about something that it wasn’t. This bill is very simply about making sure that women can safely compete, have opportunities and physically be able to excel in a sport that they’ve trained for, prepared for, and worked for. I don’t think this is a place that Selena ever thought she would be or even desire to be, to try to work on something like this. It’s such a common sense issue and it’s unfortunate that it has become lost in the rhetoric of the day that what we’re dealing with. This is nothing about anybody being discriminated against, it’s solely so that women have an opportunity to compete in women’s sports.
Kelli Stargel: (13:39)
We all know that men are stronger than women. Watching the video, I kept thinking to myself, I’ve always heard as a kid, “you run like a girl.” and when you’re looking at that video, it’s even evident the transgender woman who competed, or self-identified woman ran very differently than the others in the competition. It’s physiologically different. Men are stronger. They have bigger lung capacity, stronger muscles. It’s common sense. And Governor, I appreciate you working with us to push this issue forward. It was a difficult issue. It’s the right issue. It’s the right thing to work for in this emerging issue to make sure that we protect our women. So thank you, Governor. Thank you for what you’ve done for our state.
Governor DeSantis: (14:24)
Thank you. Okay. Kaylee Tuck, where is she?
Speaker 6: (14:25)
Governor DeSantis: (14:26)
Oh, we okay?
Speaker 7: (14:40)
Did she pass out?
Governor DeSantis: (14:50)
Do we have any medic here?
Speaker 8: (14:52)
They’re getting it.
Governor DeSantis: (14:52)
They’re getting it?
Governor DeSantis: (15:00)
Speaker 8: (15:00)
Governor DeSantis: (15:00)
I think she’s going to be okay. So, thankfully. Okay. Kaylee Tuck.
Kaylee Tuck: (15:40)
Thank you, Governor, and thank you all for having me here today. I can say a lot about why I filed this legislation and the reasons for this legislation, but I think the testimony here is powerful enough. We can’t expect our girls and women to compete for third and fourth place and work hard doing it. So this legislation protects the safety, the competitiveness, the integrity, and the fairness of women’s sports. So thank you so much, Governor, for your support. Thank you to Speaker Sprowls for his leadership, and thank you to my good friend and mentor Chair Latvala for his guidance on this as well. So thank you so much.
Governor DeSantis: (16:14)
All right. Good job. And I’m going to sign it in one second, but just a smaller issue, a part of this, as many of you know when these legislators are doing things it’s like making sausage, there’s different things that happen. And so as part of this bill, for whatever reason, there was a provision there that was delaying something that we did previously in my administration with the Legislature, respecting college athletes ability to use their name, image, and likeness, and be able to be compensated if people are doing that. The bill that I’ll sign today actually extends the date of effect from July 1st of this year till July 1st of next year; however, that was fixed. There’s another bill that I will then subsequently sign, which will take precedence over that provision of this bill. And so rest assured July 1st, 2021, just as planned, the name, image, and likeness, the college athletes will be able to be compensated if people are using their name, image, and likeness.
Governor DeSantis: (17:20)
And I know that we actually, our coaches throughout Florida use that to recruit different athletes to be able to come to our state universities. And we think that we’re proud of Florida leading the way on that yet again, and we’ll continue to do it. So if you read this bill, you will see that, the one year delay, but just understand that one year delay, it will be rectified once I signed the other legislation. That will happen so everyone can proceed accordingly as July 1st, the date where our name, image, and likeness bill takes effect. We’re very proud of that as well. All right. Let’s go. Madison, come here.
Speaker 10: (17:53)
What’s today, the 1st? Is today the 1st?
Governor DeSantis: (17:53)
What about Payton, right here. Right here. Selena. Anyone else want one?
Speaker 11: (17:53)
I want one.
Governor DeSantis: (17:53)
Anybody else want one? Oh, right here. Anybody?
Speaker 12: (19:39)
I’ve got one. I’ve got a question for you.
Governor DeSantis: (19:44)
Let’s start back here. Jim. Go ahead.
Speaker 12: (19:46)
On the first day of Pride Month.
Governor DeSantis: (19:53)
So I think one, I met him at the football game. We have a good relationship. I mean, I don’t think there was anything more to it than that. They had a venue offer, so we did it. But I think a lot of our schools throughout Florida have done an excellent job in providing opportunities for people, particularly for women athletes. And I think if you look across the board, we do about as good as anybody and we’re very proud of that.
Speaker 12: (20:18)
What message are you sending to the LGBT people by signing this on the first day of Pride Week?
Governor DeSantis: (20:24)
Okay. First of all, it’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness and women’s sports. We believe that it’s important to have integrity in the competition and we think it’s important that they’re able to compete on a level playing field. And you’ve seen what’s happened when you don’t have that. The woman in the back. Yes, Ma’am.
Speaker 14: (20:59)
Governor DeSantis, I have a question related to the [inaudible 00:21:00]?
Governor DeSantis: (21:07)
So it’s something that depending on the issue, DP has the oversight over. And I know we just saw, I guess, an incident over the weekend, very, very troubling. We obviously want to have safety first, so they are absolutely looking into that. If there’s things that I can do from an administrative perspective, I’m obviously willing to do that. Okay. Thanks, everybody. Great to be here.