Sports Project: Overview

The National Center for Lesbian Rights made history in 2001 by becoming the first LGBT national organization to tackle rampant homophobia and transphobia in sports with the launch of its Sports Project.

Since the Sports Project’s inception, NCLR has worked to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in sports through advocacy, outreach, and litigation. Under the leadership of former NCAA women’s basketball championship coach and athletic director Helen J. Carroll, we have provided assistance to hundreds of high school, university, and professional athletes, coaches, and sport personnel. NCLR’s Sports Project works on all levels of athletic competition, from the NCAA to the NFL, to ensure that LGBT athletes can compete and participate openly and equally.

More than 30 years ago, Title IX changed athletics forever by requiring equal treatment of women and girls in sports. Today NCLR’s high-profile work is aimed at assuring equal treatment of  all LGBT athletes. NCLR seeks nothing less than a world in which openly LGBT sports figures can be hailed as champions and role models in all aspects of competition.


NCLR’s Sports Project works in the courts as well as on the playing field to ensure that LGBT athletes and coaches receive fair and equal treatment, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Groundbreaking progress continues after a decade of the Project’s success bringing stories—such as our settlement of the Jennifer Harris’ case against former Coach Renee Portland and Penn State University—into the national spotlight is an important part of NCLR’s educational work in the sporting world.


Our Sports Project is an outspoken participant in many local, state, and national conversations about the evolving world of athletics. Representing the principle of true sportsmanship and fairness in sports, we bring to these discussions the concerns of LGBT players, coaches, spectators, and sports administrators to ensure that they are heard, acknowledged, and understood. Ways in which the Sports Project advocates on behalf of LGBT athletes include:

  • Advising the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on the positive benefits to their members as they adopted domestic partner benefits
  • Working with the NCAA, Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), Professional Golf Association (PGA), U.S. Track and Field, Basketball Coaches Associations, State High School Athletic Associations, the Women’s Sports Foundation, etc., to discuss ways to include the full and fair participation of transgender athletes in sports
  • Supporting anti-discrimination policies in organizations such as the San Francisco 49ers ,Women’s Professional teams, collegiate athletic organizations and individual institutions of higher learning

Learn about the Sports Project’s collaborations.