Transgender Bill Could Cost South Dakota Millions, Sports Authority Leader Says

Mar 18, 2021

A bill that affects transgender athletes could cost South Dakota millions of dollars in economic activity if it’s signed into law, according to an official who recruits major sporting events to the state.

Thomas Lee is the executive director of the Sioux Falls Sports Authority. He previously worked in North Carolina, where lawmakers passed a bill in 2016 dictating which bathrooms transgender people could use

“We know there’s already been a precedent set with North Carolina that there will be economic ramifications beyond the discriminatory factor and the human element of this,” Lee told host Lori Walsh on SDPB’s In the Moment. “There’s economic ramifications, whether that’s sports, conventions, concerts – businesses that were planning to relocate to North Carolina pulled that consideration. We believe that exactly is what would happen here as well with a lot of our marquee events.

North Carolina lawmakers repealed their bill a year later, after a national controversy and the loss of some major events.

The South Dakota bill has passed both houses of the Legislature. The bill prohibits transgender girls from playing girls’ sports. It also requires all student-athletes to sign documents declaring their biological sex. Gov. Kristi Noem has the bill under consideration.

Lee said one of South Dakota’s vulnerable events is the season-ending basketball tournament for the Summit League of the NCAA, which has been held annually in Sioux Falls in recent years. Lee said that event has a $5 million annual economic impact.