Mass Athletic Association Pledge: Not Compulsory – Mass. Family Institute

MIAA confirms that its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Pledge and Implicit Bias Course are NOT compulsory for student-athletes or coaches   

by Massachusetts Family Institute

Wakefield, MA – The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) is a private, non-profit association, which is organized by and represents approximately 380 public and private high schools in Massachusetts.  On behalf of its member schools, the MIAA governs, coordinates and promotes athletic education-based programs for approximately 240,000 student athletes and 15,000 coaches in approximately 35 recognized sports.

On October 27, 2021, the MIAA Board of Directors adopted a pilot program for the winter 2021-22 season requiring all student athletes, coaches, and athletic directors to take the National Federation of High School Sports Implicit Bias Course and sign a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Pledge (DEI Pledge). The NFHS’s Implicit Bias course claims to identify a relationship between implicit bias and real-world behavior and highlights the alleged importance of being aware of and managing personal bias.  The MIAA’s DEI Pledge requires student-athletes and coaches to pledge their support and commitment to DEI policies and programs sponsored by the MIAA or their school.

On October 29, 2021, the MIAA’s Executive Director, Bob Baldwin, issued a memorandum to all member school principals, athletic directors, superintendents, and assistant superintendents, informing them of the immediate implementation of the pilot program and stating that “School administrators (coaches and athletic directors) must take the course and pledge every school year, prior to the start of the academic year. Student-athletes must take the course and pledge every year as well, and they must do so prior to the start of their athletic season.”  Although not explicitly stated by Executive Director Baldwin, by indicating that coaches and student-athletes “must take the course and pledge” annually, he and the MIAA clearly implied that the course and pledge were compulsory in order to participate in MIAA activities.

Shortly after the MIAA announced its pilot program, Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) began receiving complaints from coaches, student-athletes, and students’ parents.  “Many expressed concerns about the mandatory nature of the pilot program, particularly being forced to pledge support for DEI policies and programs,” explained MFI President and General Counsel Andrew Beckwith. “Some reported that they complied with the MIAA’s mandate out of fear of losing a coaching position or not being permitted to participate on an athletic team.  In other cases, student-athletes and their parents chose not to participate because they could not in good conscience sign the pledge.”

After repeated efforts to contact the MIAA’s President, Executive and Associate Executive Directors, and DEI Liaison, to discuss its pilot program, MFI eventually reached the MIAA’s legal counsel, Stoneman, Chandler & Miller, LLP.  In response to MFI’s request for clarification as to whether coaches and/or student-athletes are required to take the course and/or sign the DEI Pledge in order to participate in MIAA sponsored activities, the MIAA’s attorney stated: “At this time, there are no consequences from the MIAA for failure to take the pledge or the course.”

Based on the MIAA’s counsel’s acknowledgement, no coach or student-athlete can be compelled by the MIAA to take the Implicit Bias Course or sign the DEI Pledge in order to participate in MIAA sponsored activities and shall suffer no consequences from the MIAA for refusing to do so.  This is an important clarification obtained by MFI and should provide coaches, student-athletes, and students’ parents with some relief from the onerous nature of the MIAA’s DEI agenda.  “I’m glad to see that the MIAA is not enforcing this policy, which amounted to an unlawful imposition of compelled speech on student athletes and coaches,” commented Beckwith. “It’s unfortunate that they allowed this confusion to linger for the past five months.”

If your school continues to require coaches and student-athletes to take the course and/or sign the pledge as a pre-requisite for program participation, please feel free to contact MFI for assistance.

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