ESPN personality Sam Ponder is facing criticism for a tweet in which she called for “fairness” in girls sports in response to a tweet about transgender athletes competing in high school sports.
Ponder quote tweeted Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer who has used her platform to speak out against transgender women competing in women’s sports. Gaines’s original tweet showed text messages she received from girls and fathers in California who were upset over transgender girls being included in high school track and field competitions.
In the response, Ponder claims she’s been told stories of girls who want to speak up but won’t because they will get called “hateful.”
“It is not hateful to demand fairness in sports for girls,” Ponder said.
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 https://t.co/teNoMDWNW4— Samantha Steele Ponder (@samponder) May 25, 2023
The tweet caught the attention of USA Today columnist Nancy Armour, who wrote a column calling Ponder out for “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,” Armour wrote in a column posted Sunday. “… 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.”
Armour opined that if Ponder actually were concerned about fairness, she would have spoken out regarding the funding inequity between men’s and women’s sports at some point during her career. Armour also pointed out that it’s not the first time Ponder interacted with Gaines on Twitter, as she responded to a tweet from another ESPN personality, Sage Steele, in April showing support to Gaines.
Just wow. Yes Riley, so many of us are cheering you on. I imagine this has felt lonely at times and I’m genuinely sorry for my own cowardice in not speaking out sooner. Stay strong sister ❤️— Samantha Steele Ponder (@samponder) April 7, 2023
Ponder has worked at ESPN for over a decade and has been the host of NFL Countdown since 2017.