‘Unfair to Women’: ESPN Commentator Condemns Transgender Powerlifting Court Order

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ESPN commentator Sage Steele on Monday condemned a recent decision by a Minnesota state court to force USA Powerlifting to permit male athletes who identify as transgender to compete against females.

“Unfair to women,” Steele tweeted Monday evening. “And the irony of this decision being made during Women’s History Month…The hypocrisy continues.”

Michelle Tafoya, a sports journalist who has worked with CBS, ABC, ESPN, and NBC throughout her decades-long career, criticized the move as well. “Transgender women have a Y chromosome. Biological women do not. There are genetic differences. Women’s sports needs to be protected,” Tafoya argued on Twitter last Saturday.

Sage and Tafoya were joined in their opposition by the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), an organization dedicated to protecting female athletes. ICONS denounced the Minnesota court order, encouraging USA Powerlifting and its state chapter “to fight this unjust decision” last Thursday.

In 2021, JayCee Cooper, a transgender powerlifter who was born male but who identifies as a woman, sued USA Powerlifting in state court on the grounds that its sex-segregation competition policy was discriminatory.

“After years of experiencing discrimination from USA Powerlifting, and the backlash that has occurred due to that, of course I have complex feelings about the sport,” Cooper told a local news outlet in response to the decision. “But I think that this win–is a representation of where we can move forward.”

In a ruling on the case published last week, the court ordered USA Powerlifting to “cease and desist from all unfair discriminatory practices.” The sporting body was given two weeks to comply with the new order.

“Just as it does not matter that one may be able to purchase a beer at a saloon other than one that refuses service to people of color, it does not matter that Cooper could compete somewhere else or as someone else,” Ramsey County district court judge Patrick Diamond said in his 46-page decision.

USA Powerlifting president Larry Maile denounced the court’s decision, pointing out that males have a particular advantage over females in powerlifting.

“Our position has been aimed at balancing the needs of cis- and transgender women, whose capacities differ significantly in purely strength sports,” Maile said in a statement.

“We have received a summary judgment decision from the Court finding us liable for discrimination. We respectfully disagree with the Court’s conclusions. We are considering all of our options, including appeal.”

Cooper placed third in the 2022 AMP Classic Open Nationals, twice won the “women’s raw 198+ open,” and finished fourth in the USPA National Championships.

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