The suspension of ESPN 980 (Washington, D.C.) radio hosts Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin over their comments about transgender athlete Gabrielle Ludwig illustrates how important it can be for media members to think before they speak. A situation like Ludwig's isn't something that's been seen a lot over the years; the 6'8'' 50-year-old is suiting up for Santa Clara's Contra Costa College women's basketball team this year after a sex-change operation in July, and may be the first athlete to take part in college sports in both genders. (Ludwig briefly played at an East Coast community college as a young man decades earlier.)
Rather than have a serious discussion about what that means, though, Czaban and Pollin opted for the basest possible commentary, calling Ludwig an "it", mocking her appearance and saying transgender people shouldn't be allowed to play sports. Here's audio of their segment on Ludwig:
That segment understandably led to plenty of outrage from LGBT advocates, and as mentioned above, the station opted Tuesday to suspend the two hosts involved. (It's worth noting that ESPN itself decided to issue a statement distancing itself from their comments, despite Czaban and Pollin not being ESPN employees; the station involved licenses the ESPN brand and some programming, but this show was part of their local, non-ESPN content.)
It's pretty clear this kind of commentary isn't constructive and doesn't represent anything most stations or brands would want to be associated with. Both ESPN and the local station are smart to back away from it, and suspending Czaban and Pollin seems like a good idea.
A potential peril here is that this suspension could deter media members from daring to discuss transgender athletes, though. That shouldn't be how to interpret this. The problem definitely isn't that Czaban and Pollin chose to talk about Ludwig, and it isn't really even that they don't like the idea of a transgendered player in college sports; while that's not a case many of us would support, there are ways to make it without being horribly offensive. As Sports Illustrated's Pablo S. Torre and David Epstein explored in an excellent article earlier this year, there are still plenty of debates over how sport governing bodies should handle transgender athletes (including distinctions between anatomy and how people identify themselves), and there aren't necessarily a lot of clear answers.
The important thing is that the sports world starts having these discussions. As Outsports' Cyd Ziegler said at Blogs With Balls this fall, many issues of sexual orientation in sports have gone from ignored to widely covered. Talking about transgendered athletes would seem to be a logical next discussion to have. The takeaway from the Czaban and Pollin situation shouldn't be "Don't dare to discuss transgendered athletes, or the lobby groups will be down on you." It should be "Think before you speak." There are conversations and discussions to be had around transgendered athletes, but regardless of which stance you take, those discussions should be held in a respectful and rational manner. Baseless, offensive rants played for cheap laughs aren't the way to go, and the case of Czaban and Pollin proves that.
Idiots. What dummy let these two pigs work on the station? Hope they end up on job picking garbage in the streets and make fun of people. And God should give them transgender child - That would be a real punishment for them.
" The takeaway from the Czaban and Pollin situation SHOULD be "Don't dare to discuss transgendered athletes, or the lobby groups will be down on you."
I have fixed the error in blog for you. Using the term IT is probably out of bounds and should merit an apology. Suspension is way over the top. They obviously poked fun at her looks but shots like that are taken in the media (late night, radio, blogs) everyday so welcome to equality. The rest was their opinion and the age thing has been addressed by Czaban in the past.
<I>Rather than have a serious discussion about what that means, though, Czaban and Pollin opted for the basest possible commentary, calling Ludwig an "it", mocking her appearance and saying transgender people shouldn't be allowed to play sports.</i>
Actually there was a rather substantive bit of commentary that noted that he is middle-aged, and argues that on that basis alone should not be able to play. And of course there is the fact that at the end of the day, he is genetically in every way still a man.
You may now return to your regularly scheduled sanctimony.
@PaulZummo Older college students have always been allowed to play in NCAA sports. Brandon Weeden was 28 in his senior season. Why wasn't the argument made then?
@PaulZummo By "he" don't you mean "she"? Genetics have nothing to do with gender identity.
@bduddy How do you know it wasn't? Czabe has long argued for age limits in college sports.
@PaulZummo What is "reality" sir, in cases like this. This individual has made changes to their reality, perhaps you should be more open to that fact.Its not up to us to decide gender specifics for anyone other then ourselves.
@PaulZummo @therealkparsons Actually, you would be quite wrong. Genetics with regards to sex/gender is quite murky. The existence of intersex people should be a big indicator for you. But there are women with XY genes -- some can even give birth. There are also other genetic combinations (XXY, etc) that would be even more confusing to you.
Transsexuality itself is a congenital neurological intersex condition. That means it is an intersex condition affecting the brain, and it's something people are born with. It's actually fairly well understood.
Another point to make in regards to genetics is that it has even less bearing when it comes to social functions. You do not have the ability to read other people's genes. Phenotype is far more important than genotype anyway.
Gender/sex is actually quite diverse in humanity. So diverse in fact that sex testing fails so badly it can't be used in sports. The many failures of this type of testing due to the variations in humanity have lead the Olympics to stop using it. Trans people are also allowed to compete in the Olympics as their actual gender. (In the case of the person in question here, female.)
So in gender reality, the person in question may or may not have XY genes (you don't know that). But they are in fact female.