ESPN hosts Sage Steele and Samantha Ponder are both mothers of three children, and both have daughters. This week, they utilized their celebrity to help ensure that their daughters and other American girls may once again be able to enjoy fair athletic competitions.
Steele, a co-host of "SportsCenter," and Ponder, the host of "Sunday NFL Countdown," joined All-American swim star Riley Gaines in voicing opposition to the Biden administration's proposed requirement that males be permitted to participate in women's sports.
What's the background?
The Department of Education proposed a change to Title IX on April 6 such that federally funded schools and universities would be prohibited from segregating sports across the board based on biological sex.
The Biden administration's proposal establishing "that policies violate Title IX when they categorically ban transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity" would "apply to public K-12 schools, as well as colleges, universities, and other institutions that receive federal funding."
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona stated, "Every student should be able to have the full experience of attending school in America, including participating in athletics, free from discrimination. Being on a sports team is an important part of the school experience for students of all ages."
TheBlaze previously reported that trans athlete Lia Thomas, formerly William Thomas, came out in support of the proposed change in a recent video, saying, "I started swimming when I was five years old and it has taught me so much. It has given me so many opportunities to learn, grow, and develop ... opportunities that I wouldn't have gotten if I didn't have access to athletics."
Thomas — a middling performer on the University of Pennsylvania men's swimming team until he starting taking hormones in 2019 and competing against women — continued, saying, "That's why it breaks my heart to see trans kids across the country lose out on these opportunities."
The former male athlete added in his video that the proposed rule "is a good start" but "not enough," suggesting that as it is presently framed, there will remain exceptions to the rule "under the guise of competitive fairness."
On Monday, Riley Gaines responded to Thomas' video, zeroing in on his suggestion that same-sex competition requirements amounted to discrimination advanced "under the guise of competitive fairness."
Gaines added in her critique of Thomas' video, "Does it not break your heart to see women lose out on these opportunities?"
The female All-American underscored that the proposed regulation "denies science, truth, and common sense" in a follow-up tweet.
"This take is selfish and shows an utter disregard for women. The Biden Administration is actively and aggressively working to pass laws that erase decent and fair treatment for women in sports."
Sage Steele retweeted Gaines' remarks on Tuesday, claiming the proposed Title IX changes and their defense are "heartbreaking, maddening, and really difficult to watch."
"I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and be relieved that this was all just a ridiculous, comical, nonsensical dream," wrote Steele, adding "#IStandWithRileyGaines #savewomensports."
Kim Shasby Jones, the co-founder of the Independent Council on Women's Sports, responded to Steele, writing, "It is a dark, twisted cruel world we are creating for women. Every time a woman wakes up to this it feels so entirely lonely - like how can we be here? How are people supporting this? How does this movement have so much power?"
"It’s really time we all understand just what groundwork has been laid and fight our way back from the madness - loudly," said Jones.
Earlier this month, Steele responded to Gaines' reported attack by a transvestite after giving a pro-woman speech at San Francisco State University.
Steele wrote, "Are there any other women with public platforms willing to stand up for [Gaines] & the millions of female athletes? Or do we only stand up for those who fit certain narratives?? LADIES, WHERE ARE YOU? Media...Hollywood...hello?!?! We MUST come together on this!!"
Steel underscored that the "silence really is deafening. ... I understand the fear in standing up. I get it in more ways than anyone will ever know! But I always remind myself & my kids that if we CHOOSE to stay silent, we better be ready to accept the consequences. I'm not willing to do that."
Ponder pitches in
Steele is apparently not the only independent thinker left at ESPN.
The ESPN host also retweeted Gaines' critique of Thomas' video, noting that the Biden administration's proposed change "would take away so many opportunities for biological women and girls in sports."
"It is a shame that we are needing to fight for the integrity of Title IX in 2023 and the reason it was needed in the first place."
Title IX was originally intended to ensure women got a fair shake in educational settings, including in student athletic programs.
Steele thanked Ponder on Wednesday for her remarks.
The risk of independent thought at ESPN
The Daily Mail indicated that these types of remarks amount to a significant professional risk, given ESPN's apparent willingness to punish free thinkers, particularly those who run afoul of the LGBT community or criticize the transgender agenda.
ESPN fired Curt Schilling, a former All-Star pitcher and esteemed baseball analyst, in April 2016 after the sports legend posted a controversial meme about the "basic functionality of mens and womens restrooms" on Facebook. He had worked for the network since 2010.
The network released a statement at the time of Schilling's termination, stressing it was "an inclusive company."
"ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated," the statement read.
Schilling's post, which had offended his employer's sensibilities, showed a man masquerading as a woman with the caption, "Let him into the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow-minded, judgmental, unloving racist bigot who needs to die!!!"
According to the New York Times, Schilling had also written, "A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic."