DC Area Sports Talk Hosts Suspended for Mocking 50-Year-Old Transgender College Basketball Player

Two veteran DC area sports talk radio hosts, ESPN980's Andy Pollin and Steve Czaban, were suspended, on Tuesday, for making fun of Gabrielle Ludwig, a 6-6, 50-year-old former male college basketball player, who came back to play the woman's game.

According to the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg, the two were suspended for engaging in a discussion last week about the fairness of a transsexual playing against women, an exchange that included the kind of lockerroom jocularity typical of sportstalk radio. Apparently that mockery drew the ire of LGBT activists.

Steinberg relayed that Helen Carroll of the National Center for Lesbian Rights said of the offending The Sports Reporters segment "The horrific comments by ESPN's Radio's Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin show a level of disrespect and harmful rhetoric that is inexcusable."

In his Washington Post article, Steinberg ran some of the "horrific comments" made by Czaban, Pollin and Chris Knoche.

"That's a man, baby," Chris Knoche said near the beginning of the discussion.

"This photo won't help you if you're in the car, but let me give you the reaction of Knoche and Czabe: tattooed, big biceps," Andy Pollin said.

"Oh my God," Knoche said. "That could be a Russian chick….So how does this work? You lose testicles and gain eligibility?"

"This combines the worst of both worlds," Steve Czaban said. "One, granting out of age eligibility, which should never happen….I think all college athletics should have an age limit, and it should be something like 25. That's No. 1. No. 2, the whole gender-bender thing. You know, whatever you've got to do to scratch that inner itch or quell those inner demons, that's fine. But don't go playing sports then."

"I completely agree," Knoche said.

"And don't go playing sports, saying but I've got the rights of everyone else," Czaban continued. "Yeah, you've got to 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."

"I don't care how loose the rules are in that junior college league, that's just not supposed to happen," Knoche said.

"I mean, if Knoche had eligibility, he would not give up his testicles to go play women's basketball," Pollin joked. "He'd think about it, though."

"So what's the net-net of the story, because I'm not gonna read it," Czaban asked.
"The net-net is she/he has had a lot of problems in his/her life…." Pollin said.
"I think it is the politically correct term," Czaban said.

"Whatever [the term] is, and this basketball is helping him/her to transform his/her life into a better life, such as it is," Pollin concluded.

Steinberg went on to report that "Pollin began Monday's episode of the Sports Reporters with an apology, saying, among other things, that no human being should ever be called an 'It.'"

Steinberg then concluded his story with an official statement from ESPN980's Vice President/Programming Chuck Sapienza on the suspension of Pollin and Czaban.

"We strongly believe two of our employees crossed the line when discussing a transsexual person on their program last Thursday. 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."

UPDATE:

According to Outsports.com, ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz released a statement as well:

"The two are not employees of ESPN and made the comments on an affiliated radio station that controls its own local content. The offensive commentary goes completely against ESPN’s company culture and values.  We have expressed our significant dissatisfaction to the station’s management."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.