ESPN 980AM radio hosts Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin were disciplined in an undisclosed manner [Update: via D.C. Sports Bog they won't be on the air Tuesday and Wednesday], after causing offense with on-air remarks about transgender junior-college women’s basketball player Gabrielle Ludwig, the subject of this piece by Eric Prisbell for USA Today Sports. Ludwig, 50, had played college basketball 30 years ago as Robert Ludwig.
The two Washington-area hosts used a disrespectful tone, with Austin Powers jokes and giggling. The worst of the comments were about her appearance, describing her as “tattooed, big biceps” and resembling “a Russian chick,” (whatever that means?) and referring to as “he/she” and more offensively “it.” There’s no clear intent from Pollin “recommending” the article on air beyond setting it up for derisive jokes about “the gender-bender thing.” The hosts did issue an apology, which some found hollow.
The problem may not be so much active ill-will here, but ignorance. Forcing this discussion is one of the reasons Ludwig decided to play.
“If the example I can set for the kids who are transgenders in high school, for the people who hate transgender people and for those learning to deal with transgenders, transsexuals, if they see me as a normal person and we are not the bogeyman and love life and raise kids just like you,” Ludwig says, “maybe some of this mystery of who these people are will be taken away and there can be more blending into society. People are afraid of what they don’t know. I am willing to put myself out there. It was not like that before. It was just about playing basketball. It’s about more because I see an injustice.”
Enlightenment about gender roles may be distant, but not being mean should be a well-worn concept.
Update: Here is ESPN’s statement via Out Sports.
“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.”
[Video via Out Sports]