Walmart heir and cycling proponent Tom Walton denounces Arkansas anti-trans legislation

by Dane Cash

photography by Cor Vos

Tom Walton, a key figure in developing cycling in Arkansas and in bringing the 2022 Cyclocross World Championships to the state, released a statement on Tuesday calling a string of anti-transgender policies that have been passed by the state government in recent weeks “harmful” and urging leaders “to consider the impact of existing and future policy that limits basic freedoms and does not promote inclusiveness in our communities and economy.”

Last month, the Arkansas state legislature passed and Governor Asa Hutchinson signed SB-354, preventing transgender girls and women from participating on school sports teams consistent with their gender identity. More recently, the Arkansas legislature passed a bill preventing transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming healthcare. Hutchinson vetoed the latter bill, but on Tuesday, the legislature overrode that veto.

The laws have led to calls in the sports world to boycott events in Arkansas. In the wake of the passage of SB-354, hundreds of collegiate athletes signed a letter sent to the NCAA Board of Governors requesting that the organization not hold championships in states passing similar laws. With the Cyclocross World Championships coming to Fayetteville, Arkansas, next year, there have been calls from some in the cycling community to take action. On March 25, the race director for the World Championships put out a statement calling SB-354 discriminatory and hateful, while asking fans to “take action in another way” in response to the bill besides boycotting.

Tom Walton and his brother Steuart Walton, who both work with the Walton Family Foundation, have been instrumental in promoting cycling in Arkansas, and they played a key role in securing the 2022 Cyclocross World Championships for Fayetteville. In his statement, released a few hours prior to the legislature’s vote to override Hutchinson’s veto, Tom Walton expressed his opposition to the policies that have been enacted or are being considered in his home state.

“We are alarmed by the string of policy targeting LGBTQ people in Arkansas. This trend is harmful and sends the wrong message to those willing to invest in or visit our state. We support Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s recent veto of discriminatory policy and implore government, business and community leaders to consider the impact of existing and future policy that limits basic freedoms and does not promote inclusiveness in our communities and economy,” Walton said in a statement posted on the Walton Family Foundation’s website.

“Our nation was built on inalienable rights and strengthened by individual differences. Arkansas has been called the land of opportunity because it is a place where anyone can think big and achieve the extraordinary. Any policy that limits individual opportunity also limits our state’s potential.”