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.”
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Anacostia group honors LGBTQ advocate Pannell for 30 years of service
Oct. 5 celebration set for Ward 8 Sycamore & Oak retail village
The Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC), an advocacy organization for D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood and surrounding areas east of the Anacostia River, is holding a celebration honoring LGBTQ rights and Anacostia community activist Phillip Pannell for his 30 years of service with the ACC.
The event was scheduled to take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the recently opened Sycamore & Oak retail village mall on the St. Elizabeth’s East Campus in Southeast D.C.
Pannell, 73, serves as the ACC executive director, a position he has held since 1995. He has been a member of the Anacostia-based nonprofit organization’s staff since 1993.
A longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, Pannell has been credited with persuading many of D.C.’s LGBTQ organizations to reach out to LGBTQ residents who live in Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River.
He has also been credited with persuading African-American organizations, including organizers of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebrations, to include and welcome LGBTQ people to their events.
“Join us for an evening of food, fun, and surprises,” an announcement of the event released by the ACC says.
ACC spokesperson Lamont Mitchell told the Washington Blade several community leaders and public officials who have known Pannell during his many years of D.C. community involvement were expected to speak at the Oct. 5 celebration. Among the expected speakers, Mitchell said, was former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt.
According to the announcement, the event is free and open to the public, but organizers requested that people register in advance at tinyurl.com/Pannell35.
The ACC event honoring Pannell was to take place about a month after the D.C. newspaper Washington Informer published a detailed article profiling Pannell’s career as a community activist and advocate for several important local causes and issues, including D.C. statehood.
“D.C. statehood is not just a political issue, it is also a civil and human rights issue because if D.C. were a state, we would be a state with the highest percentage of African Americans, basically a majority, minority state,” the Informer quoted Pannell as saying. “That’s one of the reasons a lot of right-wing Republicans don’t want to see D.C. become a state because we are going to elect progressive, Black Democratic senators,” Pannell told the Informer.
A statement on the ACC’s website says Pannell has received more than 100 awards during his nearly four decades of work in D.C., including the 2011 U.S. President’s Call to Service Award and the 2012 D.C. Federation of Civic Associations award for Outstanding President of a Member Association.
Elected officials turn out for annual Equality NoVa Ice Cream Social
Northern Virginia LGBTQ group stresses ‘political awareness, education’
Four LGBTQ supportive members of the Virginia General Assembly and two candidates running for seats on the Arlington County Board were among more than 100 people who turned out on Sunday, Sept. 24, for the LGBTQ organization Equality NoVa’s annual Ice Cream Social.
The event was held at the Arlington, Va. home of Freddie Lutz, owner of the Arlington gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar, and Lutz’s husband, Johnny Cervantes.
Daniel Hays, president of Equality NoVa, told those attending the event in introductory remarks that Equality NoVa, which recently changed its name from the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA), was founded in 1981 and is the oldest continuously operating LGBTQ organization in Virginia.
In an announcement in April the group said the name change came after it had taken on for some time the activities and representation of the now-defunct LGBTQ groups in Alexandria and Fairfax counties and had expanded its operations to cover most if not all the regions known as Northern Virginia.
Hays noted that the group is a nonpartisan organization that doesn’t endorse candidates for public office but organizes educational and political awareness events and awareness campaigns on issues impacting LGBTQ people related to statewide and local government agencies and officials.
The elected officials attending the event were Virginia House of Delegates members Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria & Fairfax), Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-Alexandria & Arlington), and Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax).
Also attending was Virginia State Sen. Barbara Favola, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties.
Joining the state lawmakers attending the Equality NoVa social were Arlington County Board candidates Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham and Arlington County School Board candidate Miranda Turner.
Many of those attending the event said they were rooting for the re-election of Herring, Bennett-Parker, Watts, and Favola in the upcoming Virginia elections in November. All members and candidates for the General Assembly will be on the ballot in an election that political observers say could decide which party controls both houses of the state legislature.
Currently, Democrats control the 40-member Virginia Senate by a margin of 22-18 seats. Republicans currently control the House of Delegates by a margin of 51 to 46 seats, with three vacancies in the 100-member House.
With Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) putting in place through executive action public school policies that LGBTQ activists consider hostile and discriminatory for transgender students, LGBTQ activists are hopeful that a Democratic takeover of the House of Delegates would result in a reversal of Youngkin’s school policy.
Some of the activists attending the Equality NoVa event said they were fearful that a Republican takeover of the state Senate and if Republicans retain control of the House of Delegates could result in the General Assembly approving the type of anti-LGBTQ legislation passed in Florida and other states.
Anti-transgender heckler interrupts Danica Roem during debate
Trans lawmaker is running for the Va. state Senate
An anti-transgender heckler interrupted Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on Sept. 28 during a debate with her Republican opponent for the state Senate.
The woman heckled Roem during the Prince William Committee of 100-organized debate between her and Bill Woolf that took place at Metz Middle School in Manassas.
“Thank you for reminding me why I won three elections in this district in Prince William County, which is the most diverse county in all of Virginia and the 10th most nationally where we welcome everyone because of who they are, not despite it, no matter what you look like, where you come from how you worship, if you do, or who you love because you should be able to thrive here because of who you are, never despite it,” said Roem.
Audience members applauded Roem after she responded to the heckler who was eventually removed from the auditorium.
Roem in 2017 defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall, a vocal LGBTQ rights opponent who co-wrote Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman that voters approved 11 years earlier. Roem subsequently became the first openly transgender person seated in a state legislature in the U.S.
Roem in 2019 became the first out trans state legislator to win re-election. Roem in May 2022 announced she is running to represent the newly redistricted Senate District 30, which includes western Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.
Woolf during the Sept. 28 debate did not say whether he would support the repeal of the marriage amendment. Woolf also reiterated his support of a bill that would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents.