The North Carolina General Assembly has advanced a women’s sports bill after a teen volleyball player disclosed the extensive injuries she suffered from being hit in the face with a ball spiked by a male-born competitor who identifies as female.
Payton McNabb, a senior at Hiwassee Dam High School in Murphy, made her first public appearance since the September incident at a news conference to advocate a North Carolina bill barring transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s scholastic sports.
“Allowing biological males to compete against biological females is dangerous,” Ms. McNabb said at the state Capitol in Raleigh. “I may be the first to come before you with an injury, but if this doesn’t pass, I won’t be the last.”
Her dramatic testimony came as North Carolina is poised to become the next state to pass the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act after different versions of the bill cleared the Republican-controlled House and Senate this week.
The bill, H574, passed the Senate on a party-line vote Thursday. The House passed the measure the previous day following committee testimony from former collegiate swimmer Riley Gaines and Ms. McNabb.
“On Sept. 1, 2022, I was severely injured in a high school volleyball game by a transgender athlete on the opposing team,” Ms. McNabb said. “I suffered from a concussion and neck injury that to this day I am still recovering from. Other injuries I still suffer from today include impaired vision, partial paralysis on my right side, constant headaches, as well as anxiety and depression.”
Video of the teen being hit in the face with the spiked ball and falling unconscious went viral last year, fueling calls for rule changes and legislation to stop an influx of male-born athletes from competing in female sports based on gender identity.
Ms. McNabb on Wednesday said she couldn’t finish the volleyball season, and while she currently plays softball, “I am not able to perform as well as I know I have in the past because of the injury.”
Her athletic performance may be the least of her concerns. She said her injuries have also impaired her ability to “learn, retain and comprehend” in class and that she now requires testing accommodations at school.
“I could go on and on about how this incident has affected my life, but I am not here for that, because I’m not here for me,” Ms. McNabb said. “Because for me, I know that my time playing is coming to an end, I’m here for every biological female athlete here behind me. My little sister, my cousins, my teammates.”
Two weeks after she was injured, the Cherokee County Board of Education voted 5-1 to forfeit the remaining varsity and junior varsity volleyball games against Highlands School, attended by the transgender player. The board cited safety concerns for players.
Watch the clip of Payton McNabb getting spiked in the face by a male competing with the women. Then watch her testimony she gave today for the first time publicly. I was honored to stand alongside her in NC to continue the fight to protect women’s sports. pic.twitter.com/mvJmwprkaX</ a>
— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) April 20, 2023
Twenty-one red states have approved banning biological males from female sports. The version of the North Carolina bill passed by the Senate omitted collegiate sports, while the House bill includes middle school, high school and college athletics.
Another hurdle lies with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, although Republicans in the House and Senate enjoy veto-proof majorities.
Advocates of transgender rights blasted the legislation, saying it discriminates against students based on gender identity.
“We are saddened, enraged and exhausted by the persistent attacks on our communities,” Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality NC, told NC Newsline. “We know that this does not represent our state and that this is not what North Carolinians want for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Democrat state Rep. Julie von Haefen tweeted: “Transgender kids want the opportunity to play sports for the same reason other kids do: to be a part of a team where they feel like they belong. We shouldn’t discriminate against kids, for any reason.”
At least three of the state laws have been challenged in court. The Biden administration proposed this month changes to Title IX that would prohibit blanket bans on transgender players but would let schools bring sport-specific restrictions based on safety and fairness.