What ESPN's Sam Ponder calls 'fairness' is plain old bigotry

Don’t be fooled by the people who screech about "fairness" to cloak their bigotry toward transgender girls and women, the transgender girls and women who have the audacity to want to play sports, in particular.

This is, and always was, about hate, fear and ignorance.

ESPN’s Samantha Ponder is the latest to tell on herself, using a tweet by anti-trans activist Riley Gaines to "fight for the integrity of Title IX" and then patting herself on the back for her “support” of women’s sports.

“I barely said anything publicly abt this issue & I’ve had so many ppl msg me, stop me in the street to say thank you+ tell me stories abt girls who are afraid to speak up for fear of lost employment/being called hateful. It is not hateful to demand fairness in sports for girls,” Ponder wrote Thursday.

Ponder’s quest for fairness is, unsurprisingly, a sham.

There has been no shortage of stories in the last year about the actual ways in which women athletes are being treated unfairly and robbed of opportunities to participate. USA TODAY Sports, for one, did an entire series on the subject, detailing how most schools aren’t providing equitable funding for their men’s and women’s programs, are short-changing women athletes on scholarship money and are manipulating numbers to make it look as if they’re complying with Title IX, and how the federal government is doing little to stop it.

Did Ponder use her platform to express outrage at any of this? Urge her nearly half-million followers on Twitter to write or call their representatives and ask that women be given the funding and opportunities they rightfully deserve? Did she publicly participate in any of the many excellent documentaries, videos and commentary ESPN did to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX last year? Or even Tweet about them?

No, she did not. Her public concern about “fairness” for female athletes starts and stops with the miniscule number of transgender women who are participating in sports.

Dig a little deeper into Ponder's timeline, and it's clear her hostility toward transgender women goes far beyond their participation in sports. In January, she replied, “Yes. Thank you.” to Megyn Kelly’s screed about a transgender woman going to the gynecologist.

“You can’t just become (a woman) and take all of our things,” Kelly ranted.

I’m at a loss as to how a transgender woman going to a gynecologist takes anything away from anyone, or how it’s any of Kelly or Ponder's business. Unless you are someone who wants to see the transgender community marginalized out of existence, that is.

Which, given the cesspool of transphobic tweets Ponder has liked, she appears to be.

ESPN declined to comment about Ponder’s Tweets or how they square with the network’s social media policy. Former SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill left ESPN in January 2018 after the network criticized her for some of her Tweets about then-President Trump.

“I’m genuinely sorry for my own cowardice in not speaking out sooner,” Ponder wrote to Gaines on Twitter in April.

Yes, it takes real courage for a woman with an inordinate amount of privilege to pile on a group that is already among the most vulnerable in our society.

The rates of suicide and attempted suicide for transgender people, teens and young people especially, are horrific. Transgender people also are at an elevated risk for physical and sexual assault, and are more likely to experience homelessness.

Acceptance, be it in the form of support from family and friends or being able to partake in sports and other social activities, can reduce the risk of harm. Instead, Ponder endangers these already in-peril people by further amplifying the bogeyman that cisgender women’s participation in sports is being threatened by transgender girls and young women.

To be clear: It is not. Boys and young men are not waking up in the morning and deciding to transition so they can a win a race that afternoon. In the decade-plus the NCAA and International Olympic Committee have had protocols and policies for the participation of transgender athletes, a tiny number have competed and an even smaller number have made it to the podium.

The latest focus of the transphobe outrage are two high schoolers who qualified for the 1,600-meter race at this weekend’s California state championships. Neither of the girls won her sectional, and the faster of the two was nearly seven seconds behind the top qualifier.

Yet the vitriol and hate directed at these two girls was so bad they chose not to race Friday.

"Due to the actions of others, they found it necessary to withdraw from the State Track and Field Championships out of concern for the students' well being,” the California Interscholastic Foundation, which governs that state's high school sports, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

"The CIF strongly denounces discriminatory or harassing behaviors that impact our student-athletes’ opportunities to participate in interscholastic competitions.”

Behaviors like Ponder's.

If Ponder truly wanted to champion women's sports, she's had ample opportunity. But she hasn't. Because this has nothing to do with "fairness."

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ESPN's Sam Ponder uses 'fairness' to justify bigotry toward trans women