ESPN journalist breaks rank, speaks out against trans women in sport

Samantha Ponder, a host on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, has spoken out against the Biden administration’s proposal to reform Title IX, arguing that it would be unfair to allow trans women to compete alongside biological women.

ESPN has been supportive of trans women in sport, but Ponder’s dissent follows the administration’s proposed reform to the law, which would allow schools to ban trans athletes for ‘fairness in competition.’

This move could result in a ban on athletes like Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer who was featured in ESPN’s segment for Women’s History Month.

However, the proposed change to the law does not satisfy everyone, with Thomas stating that it does not go far enough in guaranteeing the right of trans people to compete.

Meanwhile, Riley Gaines, a swimmer who raced against Thomas in 2022, and has since become an outspoken campaigner against trans women in sport, tweeted that the Biden plan did not do enough to block trans athletes.

Title IX, enacted in 1972, prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal funding.

The proposed reform to the law prevents a blanket ban on trans people in school sports, which means that any school introducing such a ban would no longer receive federal funding. The Biden administration has stated that it is unlikely that there would be a justification for banning trans children at elementary school from competing.

However, it remains to be seen how the new proposal, which allows for a ban on trans athletes for the sake of ‘fairness in competition,’ will play out.

The administration’s proposed reform to Title IX has managed to anger both sides of the debate surrounding trans women in sport. Some campaigners have stated that the proposed change to the law does not go far enough in guaranteeing the right of trans people to compete.

In contrast, others, including Riley Gaines, have stated that the Biden plan does not do enough to block trans athletes, claiming that it “denies science, truth, and common sense” and that it shows an “utter disregard for women.”

Gaines has become one of the most outspoken critics of trans women in sport, joining the likes of Martina Navratilova and Caitlyn Jenner to argue that it is unfair. Gaines’s criticisms of ESPN’s decision to include Thomas in their Women’s History Month segment have also led her to tweet the hashtag “Boycott ESPN.”