LGBT advocates have sharply criticized two local sports talk radio hosts who used transphobic references to describe a transgender college basketball player.
Andy Pollin introduced a former Washington Post reporter’s article on Gabrielle Ludwig, who plays on the women’s basketball team at Mission College in Santa Clara, Calif., that USA Today published on Dec. 5 at the start of a Thursday segment of “The Sports Reporters” on ESPN 980. Co-host Steve Czaban suggested Ludwig could “be a Russian chick” before he cackled and suggested one can become eligible to play basketball at the junior college if they “lose testicles.”
Pollin further questioned whether the Bay Area school should have allowed Ludwig to join the team because of her age before he once again highlighted her gender identity and expression.
“Whatever you go to do to scratch that inner itch or quell those inner demons, that’s fine, but don’t go playing sports then and don’t go playing sports saying, ‘But I’ve got the rights of everyone else,’” Pollin said. “Yeah, you’ve got the rights to live as a human being with other people respecting you and everything else, but athletics is different. And a man’s body and a man’s DNA is different than a woman’s. That’s why we have separate leagues for separate genders.”
A voice then said “Just like a woman,” before Pollin again questioned whether Mission College should have allowed Ludwig to play on their women’s basketball team.
“The net net is she, she/he has had a lot of problems in his/her life,” Czaban said.
Pollin added ‘it’ is the “politically correct term” to which to refer to Ludwig.
“Whatever it is and this basketball is helping him/her to transform his/her life into a better life, such as it is,” Czaban said at the end of the segment to which the Washington Blade has linked.
Ludwig responded to the segment during an interview Outsports.com, an LGBT-themed sports website, published earlier on Tuesday.
“These two people in Washington, D.C., just tore my life apart, and they don’t even know me,” she said. “They did it in respect to how I look, how I’m built, the tattoos on my body. They took great pride in humiliating me in the national public. I don’t know if I’m supposed to cry or scream or beat them up. It’s affecting my sleep, it’s affecting my confidence.”
Pollin and Czaban made a brief on-air apology during their Monday show after the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation reached out to the station.
Aaron McQuade, director of news and field strategy at GLAAD, wrote on the organization’s website that ESPN 980 management “responded quickly to our outreach, with a clear understanding of why the content that aired last week was so offensive.” He added Pollin and Czaban’s on-air apology for using “it” to refer to Ludwig “failed to address the rest of an extremely offensive segment.”
“We strongly believe two of our employees crossed the line when they referred to Ms. Ludwig as ‘it’ on their program last Thursday,” Chuck Sapienza, vice president of programming for ESPN980 told the Washington Blade in a statement. “Such intolerance and insensitivity will never be tolerated by this company. This situation was handled swiftly and internally. Due to the nature of their contracts, we are not at liberty to publicly discuss any actions that were taken.”
ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz also criticized the segment in a statement to Outsports.com.
“The two are not employees of ESPN and made the comments on an affiliated radio station that controls its own local content,” he said. “The offensive commentary goes completely against ESPN’s company culture and values. We have expressed our significant dissatisfaction to the station’s management.”
Cyd Zeigler, Jr., co-founder of Outsports.com, further criticized Pollin and Czaban’s on-air apology.
“It was among the least sincere non-apologies in history,” he wrote on Monday. “The only things they’re really be sorry for are being caught, and also how overly sensitive the faggots and the trannies are these days. I’m sure they were rolling their eyes with every word of their non-apology. You don’t say what they said without meaning every word of it — this apology doesn’t change that, it reinforces it.”
Zeigler further described the men as “a disgrace to their profession” who should be suspended without pay.
“My only saving grace is knowing there are people in my corner including the kids that I coach, and the team we played on Saturday,” Ludwig told Outsports.com. “They invited me into their locker room and took pictures. And they posted them on Facebook and said, ‘This is one of the nicest players we’ve ever played and you can’t judge a book by its cover.’”
ESPN 980 said in a statement released after the Blade published its original story that Pollin and Czaban have been “temporarily removed” from “The Sports Reporters”
“We strongly believe two of our employees crossed the line when discussing a transsexual person on their program last Thursday,” the station said. “Such intolerance and insensitivity will never be tolerated by this company. Due to the nature of their conversation, the pair have been temporarily removed from ESPN980’s Sports Reporters program.”