Orlando Sentinel

Fla. pols off base on trans athletes

Their attempted ban attacks a problem that doesn’t even exist

- Email me at mbianchi@ orlandosen­tinel.com. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWri­tes and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on FM 96.9, AM 740 and HD 101.1-2

Leave it to our pandering politician­s in Tallahasse­e to find a solution when there is no problem.

Thanks, guys, for creating division and polarizati­on where absolutely none existed before.

I’m talking about the Florida House’s vote earlier this week to ban transgende­r girls and women from playing girls’ sports at state high schools and women’s sports at state colleges.

Supporters of the bill say transgende­r girls and women — those who do not identify with the male sex assigned to them at birth — are a threat to the integrity of female-only competitio­n. Detractors say the legislatio­n is discrimina­tory and unnecessar­y.

You can believe what you want to believe when it comes to whether the bill is discrimina­tory, but there’s no question it is unnecessar­y. In fact, even those Republican lawmakers who sponsored the bill and voted for it acknowledg­ed that there are no documented problems in Florida. For crying out loud, I challenge you to even find any documented cases of transgende­r girls or women competing in high school or college sports in our state.

I’ve been covering collegiate sports in this state for 30 years and I’ve never covered nor known a sports journalist who covered a transgende­r athlete competing in girls or women’s sports in this state. Sentinel colleague Buddy Collings, who has been the foremost expert on high school sports in this state for decades, says he can’t recall a transgende­r athlete who participat­ed in any high school sport in our state.

There’s a reason for that — because you can count on one hand how many transgende­r girls

and women have competed in Florida. In fact, after contacting several high school and college officials, there seems to be confusion and bewilderme­nt as to why state lawmakers decided to create this senseless controvers­y.

For instance, a representa­tive from the Florida High School Athletics Associatio­n, the governing body for state high school sports, told me via email that the organizati­on has had a policy in place for nearly a decade (since 2013) to review transgende­r athletes for participat­ion in sports. The FHSAA requires extensive documentat­ion along with medical informatio­n and has three health care profession­als with experience in World Profession­al Associatio­n of Transgende­r Health (WPATH) standards as part of the review process.

Of the hundreds of thousands of athletes who have participat­ed in Florida high school sports since the transgende­r policy was put into place by the FHSAA, there has been a grand total of 11 transgende­r athletes who competed — and only two of those were transgende­r girls. That’s right, TWO transgende­r girls in nearly a decade.

Do we really need a law? By the way, it’s the same with the NCAA colleges in the state. The NCAA has its own set of rules and regulation­s regarding transgende­r women similar to the policies of the United States Olympic Committee. The NCAA requires “testostero­ne suppressio­n” and other criteria before transgende­r women are allowed to compete on women’s teams.

And just like our state high schools, it is incredibly rare that there are transgende­r athletes who compete on the rosters at Florida colleges and there has never been a documented case of anybody having an issue with it. Among the state’s four biggest public institutio­ns — Florida, Florida State, UCF and USF — I was only able to confirm one transgende­r female athlete in history.

In other words, this isn’t even the slightest concern among high schools or colleges in the state. The only people who have made it an issue are our grandstand­ing politician­s who are once again trying to fan the flames of division while unnecessar­ily putting our state in a precarious position.

If the Senate also passes the bill and Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it into the law, the NCAA is threatenin­g to pull the more than 40 regional or national championsh­ip events from our state over the next few years, including the NCAA men’s basketball regionals, the women’s Final Four, the Frozen Four ice hockey championsh­ip and the women’s volleyball finals.

Even so, Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, who sponsored the House bill, says the legislatio­n is necessary because it protects “biological­ly female athletes” so they “can participat­e in sports on an even playing field.”

Protect them from whom? The invisible boogeyman who doesn’t really exist?

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said it best when he called the bill unnecessar­y and “indefensib­le ... It upends and cancels the well-establishe­d policies of the FHSAA and the NCAA.” Exactly.

If transgende­r girls and women were dominating sports in Florida, breaking records, dunking basketball­s, running the 100 meters in 9.9 seconds and bench-pressing 500 pounds, then don’t you think the FHSAA and the NCAA would address it?

Shouldn’t we let sports leagues make and enforce their own rules instead of lawmakers using sports to push their partisan agendas?

It has become quite popular these days for angry sports fans to tell athletes to stay out of politics.

I’ve got a better idea. How about telling politician­s to stay out of athletics?

 ?? IVY CEBALLO/TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE ?? Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls presents during a house session at the Capitol in Tallahasse­e on March 2.
IVY CEBALLO/TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls presents during a house session at the Capitol in Tallahasse­e on March 2.
 ??  ?? Mike Bianchi
Mike Bianchi

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