Pressure from woke corporations such as the NCAA "strengthened" Gov. Ron DeSantis' decision to sign a bill banning biological males from women's sports in Florida.
DeSantis, R-Fla., signed the Fairness in Women's Sports Act on Tuesday.
Among businesses and organizations against the bill was the NCAA, which in April warned it would pull out of states that do not allow transgender students to participate in college sports.
"When he heard that the NCAA was kind of threatening that they would pull out of events here in Florida or in any state that signed these types of bills, that strengthened his resolve because he doesn't want to be bullied or allow the people of Florida to be bullied by this organization or by woke corporations," press secretary Christina Pushaw told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
"I know the corporate pressure is very strong from some sides on this issue, and I wouldn't be surprised if the corporate pressure was strong in other states as well."
Pushaw added such threats had the opposite effect than what had been intended.
"All of this pressure just makes Gov. DeSantis even stronger in his conviction to do the right thing, to do what he knows will be best for the people of Florida," she said.
The new Florida law prohibits biological males from participating in athletic teams or sports designated for female students.
DeSantis' decision followed the refusal of Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., to sign a similar bill without her suggested changes.
Both DeSantis and Noem have been mentioned as possible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
The South Dakota governor insisted the bill would be subjected to lawsuits the state could not win. Noem said she seeks to "protect girls" through other measures, including 2 executive orders: 1 to "protect fairness in K-12 athletics" and another to "do so in college athletics."
Noem insists she has not given in to pressure from groups such as the NCAA. She said she wants long-term solutions that will protect girls.
"Since November, my team and I have worked to find the best way to defend women's sports effectively — not just to feel good, but to do good," Noem wrote in a March National Review op-ed. "We have to be able to win in court."
"It is for that reason that I asked the South Dakota state legislature to make revisions to HB 1217. As passed, this bill was a trial lawyer's dream. It would have immediately been enjoined had I signed it into law, meaning that no girls in South Dakota would have been protected."
On Tuesday, Noem spokesman Ian Fury told the Daily Caller News Foundation the Florida bill "reflects the same policy" as his governor's executive orders.
"It does not have the flaws that were included in HB 1217," Fury said. "Gov. Noem's executive orders will continue to protect fairness in women's sports until the Governor introduces new legislation consistent with those orders next legislative session."
Noem's refusal to sign the South Dakota bill disappointed conservatives. American Principles Project President Terry Schilling said many on the right now see DeSantis as "the gold standard of Republican leadership in 2021."
"What distinguishes the approaches of Govs. Kristi Noem and Ron DeSantis on defending women's sports is one simple thing: political courage," Schilling told the Daily Caller News Organization. "Unfortunately she caved to that pressure, and her weak defense was that she could only take action once a sufficient coalition existed on the issue.
"By contrast, Gov. DeSantis did the smart thing when faced with woke elite pressure: He didn't back down. This is the essence of real leadership — good leaders don't wait for others to join them before taking a stand. Instead, they set an example for others to follow, as DeSantis has done on this and many other important issues."
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