American Football

Sports writers express solidarity with trans people in sports

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Sports journalists have a responsibility to speak up and speak out against the escalating attacks on transgender people in sports and beyond. This is an expression of our solidarity in this fight for the safety and dignity of transgender athletes and the trans community at large.

In the last three years, an onslaught of laws targeting trans Americans have come up through state legislatures across the country. In the first three months of 2023, dozens of anti-trans laws have made their way through committees, with some actually becoming law. These laws include limiting or outright banning gender-affirming care, criminalizing chosen gender expression, and critically, bans on trans athletes participating in sports leagues that reflect their gender identity. Many of these laws specifically target children, their education, and their freedom to participate in recreational activities.

Sports has become a very public battleground for the anti-trans movement. Public hysteria over trans athletes competing in leagues that reflect their gender identity has been a catalyst in the legislative movement to criminalize and erase trans people from visible public life. In 2022, there were over 55 bills put through committee that would ban specifically transgender girls and women from competing in sports leagues for girls and women.

To put this wave of laws into perspective, there are about 1.6 million trans people in the United States. Trans people make up less than .5% of America’s population. In sports, the story is no different. When Utah Governor Spencer Cox vetoed a ban on trans athletes, he cited the number that only four out of 85,000 child athletes in Utah were trans. Only one of the four athletes was competing in girls sports. Cox rejected the ban on the grounds that it was cruel to legislate the lives of four people doing nothing but living their lives freely and in a way that affirms their identity.

This is also the grounds that we, sports journalists, reject anti-trans laws and fear-mongering coverage of trans people. The disproportions between the number of trans people in America and the number of laws seeking to erase them perfectly illustrates the cruelty that animates anti-trans sentiment.

And the stakes are high.

Discrimination against trans people, both at the personal and the legal level, is connected to skyrocketing homelessness rates for trans children and adults. Denial of gender-affirming care can be a death sentence for trans children. Denying trans athletes social affirmation through sports can be similarly harmful.

As if the attacks on trans people were not enough to animate our solidarity, we must also recognize the history of anti-trans sentiment as a gateway to widely spread repression campaigns. In 1933, the Nazis raided Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, the world’s first Transgender Clinic. The Nazis burned over 20,000 research books on gender and sexuality. This was one of the first major Nazi book burnings, and a signal of things to come for queer people under Nazi Occupation. 50,000 queer people were jailed by the Nazis, 15,000 of them sent to concentration camps. Most of those 15,000 people died in those camps.

Decades later, the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States put transgender people on the frontlines. While police were raiding queer spaces across the United States in the 1960s, it was transgender people who were disproportionately jailed. It was also transgender activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera who led the protests at Stonewall that catalyzed a nationwide fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

Today, we already see the evolution of anti-trans sentiment into a larger anti-LGBTQ+ movement: A few weeks ago, a same-sex marriage ban proposal popped up in Iowa. Factor in the antisemitic roots of anti-trans ideology, and it becomes obvious that this path we are going down, which is already extremely dangerous for trans people, threatens the social and legal safety of millions more.

What responsibility do we have as journalists? Sports are at the center of our communities. They bring people together across towns, cities, and states. No matter our race, gender, sexuality or class, we pile into stadiums or onto couches to share the experience of sport. We cover these games because we love them, the athletes that play them and the catharsis they provide for communities nationwide.

Why deprive trans people of this experience? Why say no to the children who just want to participate in one of humanity’s forms of bonding? It is cruel. Plain and simple. The point is to inflict cruelty and propagate fear in a realm that should be about joy and teamwork.

Sports have been a vehicle for radical social change, and journalists have to recognize the moment in history in which we stand, and what has come before us. Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali smashed barriers in their time. They paved the way not just for the integration of sports leagues, but tearing down popular and hateful notions about Black people. Today, we have an opportunity to help tear down notions and make the world a safer, kinder place for trans people.

Today, tomorrow and for the rest of time, we reject this anti-trans panic campaign. We reject fear-mongering coverage of trans people just trying to live their lives. Some of us are trans, trans people are our family members, our friends, our neighbors and our colleagues. And even if they weren’t, we’d raise our voice for them. We will use our voices as sports journalists to advocate for the equitable treatment, safety, and dignity of trans people in sports and beyond.

In Solidarity,

Aaron Kaufman, iHeart Media

Aaron Nagler, Cheesehead TV

Adam Ward, SB Nation

Addison Jarecki, UK Baseball

Agnes Wong

Alex Mercer

Alexa Ross, WXIN/WTTV

Alexis Chassen, SB Nation

Anne Tokarski

Arif Hasan, Pro Football Network

Aryanna Prasad

Ben Natan, SB Nation

Bill Carroll, Team NBS Sports

Bill Kenney

Bill Williamson, SB Nation

Brady Klopfer, SB Nation

Brandon Lee Gowton, SB Nation

Brandon Olson, Locked On/Sports Illustrated

Brendan Heffernan, The Transfer Portal CFB

Brendan Mortensen, MASN

Brett Holden, Locked on Oilers

Bryan Bastin, On the Forecheck

Cameron Tabatabaie, Celtics Lab Podcast

Carl Pavlock, Five for Howling

Charles McDonald, Yahoo Sports

Connor McQuiston, NextGenStats

Connor Newcomb, Locked on Orioles

Cory Eiferman, MLB Network

Cory Kinnan, Browns Wire

Dakota Schmidt, Mexico City Capitanes

Dalton Miller, Pro Football Network

Daniel Wade, Locked On Chargers

Daniel Waldman, Bleacher Report

Deana Weinheimer, Field Pass Hockey

Denny Carter, NBC Sports

Derek Silva, Kings University College

Derrik Klassen, Bleacher Report

Devin Altieri

Dalton Wine, Stars and Stripes FC

Dr. Johanna Mellis, End of Sports

Drew Hamm, SB Nation

Dvora Meyers

Eric Seeds, The Cannon

Eric Gegenheimer, Second City Hockey

Ethan Hammerman

Evan Liu, Mile High Hockey

Ezra Parter, Mile High Hockey

Frankie de la Cretaz

Gino Cammilleri, Locked on Eagles

Hadi Kalakeche, Habs Eyes on the Prize

Hannah Broder

Hardev Lad, Pension Plan Puppets

Ian Valentino, Pro Football Network

Jacob Weindling, Mile High Hockey

Jackson Frank

Jake Adams, The Louisville Courier Journal

Jake Aferiat, NJ.com

Jake Arthur, Locked on Colts

James Domizio, Strafe ESports

James Fulwiler, Remember That Guy?

James Seltzer

Jared Book, Habs Eyes on the Prize

Jared Ellis, Locked on Hurricane

Jason Marcum, A Sea of Blue

Jeanna Kelley, SB Nation

Jeffrey Chapman, The Copper and the Blue

Jenny Wittenauer, Indiana University

Jeremy Paul, CBJectively Speaking

Jess Belmosto, Locked on Flames

Jessica Luther

Jim Sannes, Numberfire

JJ FromKansas, Winging it in MoTown

John Barchard, SBX Productions

John Shipley, Jaguar Report

Jonathan Stark, Learfield

Jose Youngs, MMA Fighting

Justis Mosqueda

Kaelen Jones, The History Channel

Karleigh Webb, SB Nation

Katharine Rice, On the Forecheck

Katie Baker, The Ringer

Kerra Mazzariello, Die by the Blade

Kyle Thele, SB Nation

Laura Norman, CBJectively Speaking Podcast

Laura Saba, Locked on Canadiens

Liah Argiropoulos, The Eagle

Lindsay Gibbs, Power Plays

Luke Braun, Locked on Podcast Network

Luke Easterling, Athlon Sports

Maggie Hendricks, Bally Sports

Marcas Grant, NFL Media

Mark Schofield, SB Nation

Marek Brave, Black and Brave Wrestling Academy

Mario Puig

Matt Harmon

Matthew Hodler, URI

Matthew Schwaerzler, Portland Pickles

Melissa Burgess, Die by the Blade

Michael Peterson, SB Nation

Montel Hardy, 247 Sports

Nathan K. Lamb, University of New Brunswick

Nick Morgan, On the Forecheck

Parker Owens, ESPN

Patrick Claybon, NFL Network

Paul Mancano, MASN

Pete Smith, Browns Digest

PHF Players Association

Rachel Donner, Locked on Podcast Network

Robyn Leano, Locked on Coyotes

Ryan Nanni

Sara Sznajder

Sean Reuter, SB Nation

Seth Rosenthal, Secret Base

Seth Toupal, Locked on Podcast Network

Shamus Clancey, The Philly Voice

Sie Morely, SB Nation

Sigmund Bloom, Footballguys

Steph Driver, Broad Street Hockey

Stephanie Vail

Stephen Dohner, Forever Mighty Podcast

Stephen G. Hesson, Batting Around

Steven Ruiz, The Ringer

Theo Ash, Stay Hot

Ty Schalter, FiveThirtyEight

Tyler Ireland, Daily Norseman

Victoria Saeli, The Tuck Rule

Zack Hicks, Horseshoe Huddle

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