Fla. pols off base on trans athletes
Their attempted ban attacks a problem that doesn’t even exist
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?