2 ESPN Radio Hosts Suspended for Comments Over Transgender Basketball Player

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Thursday December 13, 2012

Two ESPN Radio hosts have been suspended after they spewed anti-transgender remarks against a 50-year-old transgender woman who received media attention after she made her debut on a community college basketball team, OutSports reports.

Earlier this month, Gabrielle Ludwig, a six-foot-eight 220-pound Desert Storm veteran, made international headlines after she made her college basketball debut for Mission College -- a community college in Santa Carla, Calif. According to the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune, Ludwig, born Robert John Ludwig, is considered to be the first transgender athlete to play college sports as both a man and woman.

The basketball player, who first played the sport as a man nearly 32 years ago, completed her transition in July and was allowed to play on the college's team thanks to Santa Clara athletic director Mike Perez and coach Corey Cafferata, who supported Ludwig.

The article notes that the California Community College Athletic Association decides gender by birth certificate. In order to be a member of the team, Ludwig had to petition a court and provide medical documents that she underwent a sex change. On Nov. 30, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that Ludwig was a woman and awarded her with a birth certificate reflecting her proper gender.

Some have argued that her size is an unfair advantage when facing off against rival teams, who are about 30 years younger than Ludwig, but the commissioner for the Coast Conference, Dale Murray, says he has not seen evidence that the basketball player has an advantage.

"She just happens to be a bit taller than everyone else," he said. "What if she was born a female and six-feet five-inches? She's a little older than other community college players, so that's probably to her disadvantage."

Nevertheless, some are still uncomfortable with Ludwig's stature and would like to see her removed from the team.

"That's an awfully large woman and I'm not sure how to answer that because all sports have unique individuals in them," Logan McKechnie, an attorney and commissioner for the Central Valley Conference told the newspaper. "Is it fair that all professional sports athletes have to face Peyton Manning each year?' he said. 'I don't think, frankly, fairness enters into it."

But while some took an issue against Ludwig's physical appearance, Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin, radio hosts for ESPN980, attacked the athlete's identity by referring to Ludwig as "he/she" and "it" while making rude comments about her appearance, OutSports notes. Czaban even said that transgender athletes should not be allowed to play sports.

"Whatever you've got to do to scratch that inner itch and quell those inner demons, that's fine," he said. "But don't go playing sports then. And don't go playing sports saying, 'but I've go the rights of everyone else.' "

After the news outlet urged ESPN to take action against the men, who issued a brief apology on Monday, it was announced on Tuesday that Czaban and Pollin have been temporarily suspended from hosting their show.

"We strongly believe two of our employees crossed the line when discussing a tanssexual person on their program last Thursday," ESPN980's officials said in a statement. "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 Reporter program."

Additionally, GLAAD addressed the situation and pointed out that the hosts only apologized for calling Ludwig "it" "but failed to address the rest of an extremely offensive segment." The organization has also offered "to sit down with Cazban and Pollin and leaders from the transgender community to talk about the issues that affect transgender Americans, particularly those who are involved in athletics."

Listen to the radio hosts' comments about Ludwig below: