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Sam Ponder, host of ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown,” was accused of bigotry after refusing to support biological men competing in women’s sports. The controversy began when Ponder retweeted a post from Riley Gaines, the female athlete who has spoken out against transwomen and biological men participating in female sports. Gaines has gained fame for speaking out against Lia Thomas, the trans swimmer who has become controversial for dominating women’s swimming. Gaines was also recently assaulted at an event speaking out against biological men being allowed to play in women’s sports. Gaines shared some messages of support she’d received from girls who feel they are unable to speak out against their trans competitors, writing, “They feel helpless. How can you read these and think what’s happening is okay? Its discrimination against women and bullying at its finest.”

Ponder retweeted Gaines’s post, writing, “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 losing employment/being called hateful. It is not hateful to demand fairness in sports for girls.” The backlash was swift, with USA Today opinion columnist Nancy Armour responding with a column entitled, “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,” wrote Armour. Others went after Ponder as well, such as USA Today sportswriter Linda Schnell. “Every time I hear someone say trans women competing in sports isn’t ‘fair,’ I think of these wise words from @Layshiac: ‘Is LeBron ‘fair’? It’s sports! Nothing is fair,'” she wrote. Ponder responded with her own tweet, writing, “Biology is not bigotry. Loving people does not require the absence of boundaries.”

Transgender issues, particularly their effect on biological women in sports, have been a hot topic for the last year, culminating with the release of the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh documentary, “What is a Woman?” last year. The documentary was recently released for free on Twitter for 24 hours to celebrate the film’s 1-year anniversary. Initially, Daily Wire accused Twitter of suppressing the film, which was initially unable to be shared on the platform before Elon Musk, who owns Twitter, intervened and encouraged the film to be shared. It was apparently viewed over 140 million times during its 24-hour release. The film features Matt Walsh asking people of both right and left-leaning persuasions to define “What is a woman?” The film also spent some time dealing with biological men playing in women’s sports, with a former teammate of Lia Thomas anonymously discussing her issues with having biological men compete against women. 

 Ponder’s ESPN colleague, Sage Steele, has voiced her support for Ponder and criticized Armour. “Pathetic attack on a WOMAN who is simply fighting for other WOMEN in sports. @nrarmour chooses to lead w her emotions vs. facts. ‘Follow the science,’ right?! When in doubt, just pull the bigot/race card! Comical. Stay strong @samponder…this is a lonely fight, but it’s worth it!” she wrote. Steele has also openly criticized the inclusion of biological men in women’s sports. ESPN has not responded publicly to the controversy. 

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