Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The Katey Chronicles: The lawsuit

 cross-posted at the Title IX Blog


Well The Boston Globe published the news (paywalled*) behind former women's ice hockey coach Katey Stone's press conference two hours before the conference The surprise factor was gone by the time I tracked down the clips. The two pieces of the press conference (Stone's lawyer's remarks and Stone's remarks) can be found at Hockey News. Some former players spoke as well but I have not seen those clips yet. 

There is plenty to say about this lawsuit and press conference. 

First, looking back at my predictions, I should have placed more emphasis on retribution than on moving forward with "apologies." Most of today was digging in to "truths." There were no apologies. There was some very interesting running around the allegations though. More on that below. 

It was very clear that Stone is irate that she was not allowed to speak back in 2023 when everything went down. I am not positive that she believes coming to her defense would have saved her job and reputation, but I think she believes that. She ended her remarks with "my voice will at last be heard."

Second, I am sure there is some merit to this discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges sex discrimination based on differential treatment including pay. Stone said in her remarks that the AD, Erin McDermott, told her privately that this (the Globe investigation that compelled Harvard to do an external investigation) would not be happening if she were a man. Maybe. But it is not as if men have not been fired for abusive behaviors. Maybe that statement is true at Harvard--which is all that Stone has to prove since she is not suing SPORT--just Harvard. 

It also alleges that she was subject to more stringent standards than men in the department. I assume that this is in regard to the allegations that she would punish players unevenly for infractions--including an athlete who was driving under the influence. Apparently men coaches are allowed that leeway. 

This gets to a larger issue that I have tried to tackle when writing and thinking about coaching behaviors. These standards for what is acceptable in coaching are just whack. Why do we continue to accept this behavior in coaches? 

Words like "respect," "dignity," "good character," and "integrity" were used at the press conference by Stone and her lawyer, Andrew Miltenberg. If you want to prove that you are those things and are capable of teaching those things, you need receipts. Maybe the women who were sitting behind her were the receipts. But I find nothing dignified about yelling at athletes in anger or ignoring their injuries or body shaming them (an unaddressed allegation). 

Third, Harvard has a lot of blame to bear. Differential treatment to coaches means athletes are certainly receiving differential treatment. But if anyone is letting any athlete who commits a crime (DUI) continue to be part of Harvard athletics then that's just a different level.

The pay differential is going to be a tough one though. Courts have allowed differential pay between men and women coaches because schools come up with rationales about money brought in from camps and endorsements and a bunch of other factors including market value. I would love it if this case changed some of those precedents.  But I think Stone will actually have better luck saying that Harvard would not have fired a man for the same (bad) behavior. 

This brings me to the speculative part of this post: what is Harvard going to do with that unreleased external investigation report? I assume it has some damning information about Stone that they would use in a trial to justify their actions. (Also big sticking point that she actually "retired" officially. Note to others who are experiencing job discrimination--make them fire you!) But I assume it also shows that some of these behaviors went unchecked for years. That puts Harvard in danger of a lawsuit from former players. My ultimate prediction is that there will be a no-fault settlement and that no one will be allowed to speak about it and the details of that report will remain buried. And Stone's desire that her voice will be heard will go unfulfilled.

Finally, I want to talk about a few ick moments from the press conference.

One--the throwing of women of color under the bus. Miltenberg's remarks called out Dr. Claudine Gay who led the internal investigation when she was dean of Arts and Sciences. He suggested that she has brought down the reputation of Harvard recently implying that her investigation could not be considered reliable. He also mentioned the phrase Stone used that triggered the internal investigation. He said that the phrase about Indians and chiefs "may offend some people notwithstanding that it's a common phrase." That is the non-apology I was expecting. He is dancing very carefully around accusations of wokeness. It is disappointing when proponents of Title IX fail to check their white privilege and downplay racism to bolster claims of sex discrimination. 

Stone did some dancing too: around the allegations that she ignored and/or exacerbated players' mental health concerns. After saying that the mental health crisis is real she talked about the difficulty as a coach trying to find a balance between pushing too hard and "affirming mediocrity" and that "cultural norms make it more difficult to set a high bar." She characterized her program as one of an "earn it" mentality not an "entitlement mentality." If someone can get Stone to talk without a script in front of her (I'm looking at you podcasters!!), I bet with very little prodding she would go off about "kids today" and their lack of resiliency and sense of entitlement. 

I am curious about one thing. Every other case of sex discrimination in which gay women in athletics have been fired/dismissed (e.g., Iowa, Minnesota-Duluth) also alleged sexual orientation discrimination in their lawsuits. Maybe there is just no evidence of that in this case, but it does not follow the strategy I have seen about throwing everything into a lawsuit to see what sticks. 

I may be done with this story for now. But who knows--something interesting could happen next week and I will back with more lukewarm takes. 


* The Wall Street Journal was actually first to this story. Theirs is also paywalled. 

Monday, July 22, 2024

The Katey Chronicles: Part II Coaching norms

Oh hey--here's the post I never finished about former Harvard women's ice hockey coach Katey Stone. I had basically abandoned it as irrelevant/old news. 

But Stone has made it relevant! Thanks, Katey. 

The former coach is set to make an announcement and tell her side of the story (it seems?) tomorrow! (So I better get this done today!) She will be accompanied by her lawyer and three former players from different eras of her tenure at Harvard. 

I really have no idea what she will say so I am just going to throw out some predictions (I've been listening to a lot of podcasts about the Emmys so I am in that mode).

  • she will largely deny the allegations against her (more on those below) and sue Harvard for wrongful termination (or something like that since she technically retired)
  • she will use the presence of the three former players to bolster those claims
  • she will "apologize" to those who misconstrued her behavior as racist or her coaching style as violent and abusive
    • actually scratch that last part--I have never seen a coach acknowledge that their coaching style might actually be damaging their athletes
  • she will announce the foundation of some kind of academy or organization for women in hockey that she is working on with the three women by her side
Now back to that originally scheduled post from 18 months ago!

Part II of my series on the revelations that Harvard women's hockey coach created a toxic culture in her program, seemingly from the moment she arrived, is focused on the accusations and  how they fit into my findings from a study of coaching in women's DI hockey that I conducted as a masters student at Simmons College. 

Here is a list of the accusations*

  • in accusing her players of a lack of respect, she said there were too many "chiefs" and not enough "Indians"
  • fostering an environment of hazing which included a Naked Skate in which players were forced not only to skate naked in the empty arena but also slide across the ice
    • other hazing: forced alcohol consumption, public costume wearing, role playing with sexual overtones
  • body shaming 
  • causing such emotional distress that players sought mental health services and then ignoring players' mental health needs
  • a system of favoritism that resulted in uneven disciplinary measures being applied 
  • negative motivation 
  • downplaying injuries (including concussions) so as to compel players to return early
  • encouraging teammates to gang up on one another
The administration was complicit in these behaviors. Some of the former players (there were 16) who talked to the Globe reporters said they filed reports about Stone's behaviors but nothing was done. The public response by the AD, Erin McDermott, is an indication why:
"Our current women's ice hockey team has not fostered a culture of hazing. However, it is clear that some traditions in recent years were experienced differently by different people and not all were comfortable with those activities or with expressing concerns relating to the program."  

Translation: "sorry" you felt compelled to skate and slide over the ice naked and that you could not trust any of us in positions of power to make that stop. Oh, and that skating and sliding on ice naked was uncomfortable FOR YOU. We're not doing that anymore. Maybe. 

This is not just a Stone issue--no coaching problems are ever isolated to the coach. Despite similarities to the behavior of former Rutger's men's basketball coach Mike Rice, this situation only resulted in Stone's departure. At Rutgers were was a more widespread cleaning of house before they brought in a women AD as evidence of that cleaner house. I guess Harvard doesn't really know what to do since is already has a women AD. 

All these accusations are horrible. None are surprising. And they are likely not specific to ice hockey (though ice hockey has been known for some truly horrible hazing "traditions"). 

The women I spoke with for my study over a decade ago reported similar things. No one talked about hazing but a frequent conversation was about coaching behaviors that included incessant yelling--and not just to be heard in a game; yelling in practices, yelling in locker rooms, yelling on buses. I heard about yelling that was accompanied by other violent behaviors including the throwing of trash cans in locker rooms. 

The other big issue I heard about was treatment during injuries. In addition to pressure to come back that happened verbally, there was some passive aggressive tactics used. Players reported that coaches would simply ignore them if they were injured, even when they were physically there for rehab or team meetings. If a player was not healthy, she was not on the team. Healthy as in playing--most of them were never truly healthy because they were pressured to return to play sooner than was medically advised.

I talk about this issue a lot in my ethics class. Many students are future athletic trainers and we discuss the implications of letting coaches override medical advice. It is a rampant issue in intercollegiate sports that is underreported and discussed. 

So while the stories about hazing and racism made the most headlines in Spring 2023, we should refrain from creating a hierarchy of badness here. All of them caused damage and were unacceptable for anyone who is supposed to be an educator. 

* Annoyingly, the specifics of the abuses are difficult to track down because The Boston Globe, which did the investigation, is behind a paywall and the subsequent articles that reported on how the allegations forced Stone to retire just focus on her accomplishments as a coach. 


So there it is. I had initially planned for a part III in which I explain how abusive behavior works against the best interests of a coach and muse on the concept of success. 

I may still do that but I will definitely be back to talk about this press conference. (Hopefully sooner than next summer!)

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Let's talk about periods--or not

In the lead up to Wimbledon, I read several pieces and saw even more headlines about the change in the all-white clothing rule to allow players in the women's draw to wear darker shorts/tennis underwear. (Does anyone wear those anymore? Wishing I had kept some of mine now.)

There were no bones made about the fact that this change was to ease players' anxiety about playing while on their periods. 

Point1: This change was subject to a vote because it is considered a rule change to the dress code. A vote. In 2023 that helps ease the anxiety of menstruating players. 

Point 1a: This is not a new issue. Most of the stories mention that some soccer teams are eliminating white shorts from their kits as well this summer. This discussion has also emerged in regard to long-distance athletes (cyclists, runners, triathletes) who are not as bound by dress codes/team uniforms but affected by the nature of their sports which often do not allow for a bathroom break to change a tampon or pad or empty a menstrual cup. So in those sports we have seen bloodied outfits. A few years ago (it was probably longer because everything seems to be a few years ago to me) a menstruating woman ran a marathon while on her period and was not at all ashamed by it and wanted to use the moment to bring attention to athletes who menstruate. (Google it for more details.) 

Point 1b: The fact there seems to be some concerted attention to athletes who have their periods while competing in this the year 2023 is a little demoralizing (even as the changes I have mentioned are loudly applauded). It demonstrates how little input women have in sports as athletes and administrators. 

Point 2: The print media was all over this story. I assume some radio outlets were as well. No one has said anything about the rule change on air. I have only been watching ESPN's coverage but I cannot imagine Tennis Channel is much different (and my only understanding of how the BBC operates is based on controversies over the monarchy and Great British Baking Show). The silence kind of surprised me given how commentators usually do not hold back when commenting on women's outfits. It is not as if the black and dark green shorts are not obvious. EDITED TO ADD: Martina Navratilova covered Sabalenka's 4th round match and said that the players are now allowed to wear "colored undershorts" and that it was nice to add a little color to the courts "legally." She DID NOT say WHY the change was made. The implication of her awkward phrasing is that the All-England Club wanted more color on the courts. 

But of course television/streaming media is far more conservative than print media, as I often reminded my sport management students when I taught in those departments. They basically are still not talking about periods. Chrissy Evert generally cannot hold herself back from talking about what things were like in her day and how she responded to X and Y. But Chrissy has been radio silent (or ESPN silent) about periods and dress codes. Not very surprising; she does seem to stay quiet when it comes to women's issues. (Go back and look at how she responded when asked to join Billie Jean King's women's tour in the 70s. She will now, of course, talk a lot about equity in women's tennis when the issue has been rendered nearly uncontroversial.) 

This is not about Chris Evert though. It is about when and where and how people in sports (media people, athletes, managers, coaches, etc.) can and do--do not--talk about women's bodies. We seem fine talking about women losing their periods but not about them getting them. 

The athletes at Wimbledon have been open with the media (the ones who ask) about the role their periods play when the are playing. But I really would have loved to see all of them playing in red shorts this year. 

P.S. I just read that the shorts are not allowed to "show" beneath the skirt/dress. I assume this means be longer than. But Nike's eyelet-ish dress has a scalloped (of sorts) hem that rises a couple of inches on the side seams. Aryna Sabalenka is wearing this dress and has dark shorts that are visible. No one has said anything. To be clear--this is good. I am just curious about which aspects of the dress code get enforced...and against whom...

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Katey Chronicles: Part I

 I have many thoughts on the news that the Harvard women's ice hockey team was a space of abuse, intimidation, humiliation, bullying, and general badness. I am having trouble organizing them and figuring out where to begin. There is so very much to say. My organizational strategy is to create multiple posts. This first one is about my interest in this particular case and a little bit on Katey Stone, the Harvard head coach who unapologetically created this toxic culture and women as ice hockey coaches more generally. 

There is a lot to say about every revelation of dysfunctional and destructive team cultures. They exist far more widely than most people likely believe--at all levels of sports, and they are all multi-faceted (i.e., emotional and physical abuse, racism, other forms of discrimination and violence). This one for me, though, was especially provoking because I did my master's thesis on coaches in DI women's ice hockey in the early 2000s. I interviewed players from the two east coast conferences (ECAC and Hockey East) which, at that time, were where the powerhouse teams were. The focus of my project was the question of player preferences in the gender of their coaches. (And every time I see a story like this I re-regret not pursuing publishing some piece of that project.) 

At the time of my project Stone, a still young/new coach, was building a powerhouse team at Harvard. She was feeding the American and Canadian national teams some of their key players. She was coaching Patty Kazmaier winners.

She was (and remains) a preeminent female coach in women's hockey. She was one of very few women coaches in women's ice hockey, one of the facts that inspired my inquiry. She is still the woman with the highest number of wins in women's intercollegiate ice hockey at #4 on the list. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are all men. This was another entry point into my project: why all the men in a sport that, in its intercollegiate form, came of age alongside Title IX but was relatively small, with the best teams, and their feeder institutions (several of which Stone coached at) located almost exclusively on the east coast? 

Stone grew up in Connecticut and attended the fairly exclusive Taft School, where both her parents worked. Her father was the Athletics Director. She was immersed in sports throughout her life and went to University of New Hampshire where she played both ice hockey and lacrosse. She played for UNH's first women's hockey coach, Russ McCurdy and graduated in 1989, several years before UNH hired its first female women's head coach Karen Kay, whom Stone would end up coaching against in the early part of her career, before Kay's contract was not renewed after the 2001-02 season. This was the other entry point into my project. After Kay's contract was not renewed UNH hired Brian McCloskey, the men's assistant coach at the time, despite having two finalists for the job who were women with extensive experience coaching women's hockey including national team experience. McCloskey had a very good record during his tenure which came to a controversial end (more on that in a subsequent post). 

What does all this mean? Ice hockey--whether the men's or women's game--is very male-dominated at the highest levels. I realize this #notarevelation. This is typical of many (most?) sports. In a future post, I will talk about coaching culture and norms, which I think are (maybe?) finally starting to shift. But it is clear that Stone was raised and played in an environment where norms of masculinity as they manifested in coaching were prevalent and seemingly not questioned. When I did my research, it was clear that regardless of gender, coaches were engaging in what I thought was appalling behavior. 

McCurdy was before my time as an undergraduate at UNH, but I was there when Kay was head coach, and I knew several of the players. She was not well-loved. She was seen as playing favorites which included having more personal relationships (I am not suggesting sexual ones here) with some players. She ignored players who were injured. This is in addition to the very accepted practice of screaming at players and yelling disparaging remarks; criticism greatly outweighed praise. 

This is not excusable behavior. But it was not unusual. In my research just a few years after Kay had been released, no one claimed to like their head coach. They had differing opinions on how effective they were as coaches and their policies. But the players I spoke with saw--and accepted--that head coaches were distant and strict and that assistant coaches were the ones who were there for more personal things like talking about being homesick, romantic and friend relationships, or troubles with school. Head coaches stopped paying attention or nurturing players when they were injured, communicating only through athletic trainers. head coaches got angry and screamed and pulled jerseys and threw trash cans in locker rooms out of frustration. 

At the end of my research, none of the women I interviewed expressed a preference for a woman coach, some did not care, and others preferred men as coaches. The reasons given for the latter were: that was what they had always known; they felt men had more experience because their history in the sport was longer (this also extended to referees for one participants who said she preferred male referees because they were better and more accurate). Some believed we would see more women as head coaches in the following generation because there were just more women playing at elite programs who would have what they deemed to be the necessary history and experience. 

In addition to these reasons, I discussed two other possibilities in my paper for the preference for men as head coaches of women's hockey. One, it gave the still nascent sport (it only been added to the Olympics in 1998) credibility. Two, and relatedly, it meant avoiding the lesbian stigma. Hockey was a "masculine" sport with no opportunity (because of the uniforms) to add hair bows or visible make-up to connote heterosexuality. And indeed some of the women coaches were/are gay. Shannon Miller, who was also coaching at this time out west and for Team Canada, was fired (technically her contract was not renewed in 2015) for being gay and won a lawsuit because of it. 

The lesbian stigma certainly exists in other sports and there has been research on how it has affected hiring and firing practices. I argue that it also affects how players view coaches and who they want coaching them AND how women coaches comport themselves and try to fit in with masculine coaching norms. This is the topic of my next post. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The character of coaches: Shane Beamer's outburst

 Most semesters I start off my ethics course with an article about the connection between sports and character building. It inspires debate, requires an assessment of data, and sets the tone for the course in which I am asking my students to check their preconceptions in order to effectively engage in a process of moral reasoning. 

We discuss definitions of character and how those definitions are often shifted or ignored when considering actions and decisions that happen in the context of sports. While many students will start to see that sports are not automatic character builders, that mere participation does not make someone a better person, they will take exception to the idea that unethical things done "in the heat of battle" does not make one unethical or speak badly of sport itself. In other words, the drive to win sometimes makes people do unethical things, but that's kind of just the nature of sports. 

But doesn't an ethical person, by virtue of being ethical, do the right thing regardless of "the moment"? I ask.  

Later in the semester we read a piece about virtue ethics and coaching in which the authors demonstrate the moral imperative coaches have to behave ethically and teach ethical behavior that, in fact, this is their primary responsibility--above winning and even above skill building. The majority of my students have experienced bad coaching. We fill the board with their examples. But few have ever questioned why so many of them have had bad coaching experiences. 

If we truly want sports to build character, we must acknowledge that coaches are crucial components in modelling character. This rarely gets discussed though. And it is never a requirement for consideration when we talk about "good coaches." I still hear people call Joe Paterno a great coach. 

Last weekend, University of South Carolina football coach, Shane Beamer, yelled at women athletes who were brought onto the field to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. He wanted them off so the game--which was at a critical juncture--could proceed. He claims he was not aware that the ceremony was happening (yet also goes on to explain how much of a women's sports fan he is and that he has sport-playing daughters so...there was a celebration of the law that likely led to his daughters' ability to play sports yet he was unaware. #thingsthatmakeyougohmmmm)

He apologized but in the same breath noted how he was so focused on this fourth down conversion and that other team was gaining an advantage and...and..."heat of the moment." Perhaps he thinks this focus and attention makes him a good coach. I think it makes him a bad coach. Because good character should be displayed in the most difficult moments. In the grand scheme of things, a 4th down conversion in a game you are losing--even in the SEC--is not an especially difficult moment. He did not model good character for his players. He modelled what has become very common in our sport culture: making a mistake in which a minoritized person or persons is a victim and apologizing with an asterisk (heat of the moment, in this case). He also, in the process, threw the officials under the bus saying that they told him to line his players up. Blaming the officials is also not good character. 

Sports do not magically make one a better person and research shows that actually the longer one stays in sports and the higher the level achieved, the less likely one is to have/display good character. Sadly, there are examples galore to use but no real movement to hold people--like coaches--responsible. 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Unreconciled racism: The BYU incident

 Last weekend, BYU fans directed racial slurs against several Black women on the Duke volleyball team. It seems that Rachel Richardson experienced the brunt of it including a threat from a white man in which she was told to "watch her back" on her way to the bus. She is the athlete who has spoken up about the violence. 

BYU responded late and poorly, but this was an all-around failure by all coaches and officials. 

It has been pointed out that BYU's response reflects their ignorance. Others have thrown up their hands in a "it's BYU--what do you expect?" kind of way. 

ALL institutions should already be doing this work. That Heather Olmstead, BYU coach, said that after talking to Richardson (and others) that she now "understand(s) areas where we can do better" is offensive. Stop asking Black people to educate you about racism. AND ALSO how do you not understand that yelling racial slurs is a problem? This is not an area to be worked on--this is an area that should be fully understood; there should be a plan in place for if this happens and more importantly a culture in which this behavior is not acceptable should already exist. 

This work should have been done already! This is basic stuff. Athletic departments and colleges/universities that are not having conversations about race, that do not have action plans in place are failing. 

This is not revelatory. 

The question/issue that remains for me is whether an institution such as BYU that has clearly not engaged at all with its racist, imperialist, and colonist past AND ongoing practices can actually do this work authentically. One of the Mormon church's crucial practices is missionary work. Missionary work is a form of imperialism. They recruit non-white people into their religion without having addressed the church's own history. How can BYU legitimately engage in anti-racist work? 

Arguably, the majority of higher ed institutions have not approached their own racism honestly, and many institutions fail to appropriately address and sanction racist fans (hey UIowa my alma mater, I am looking at you!) For some reason, BYU's actions and inactions seem more egregious, more hypocritical as they preach a morality that they cannot adhere to given their historical and current practices. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

That umbrella makes you look...like a hypocrite

 Mariah Burton Nelson and Donna Lopiano, long-time women's sports advocates, have found "a fair and inclusive solution" to the "problem" of trans athletes--specifically trans women (because trans men are apparently inherently disadvantaged despite all that testosterone, the very substance that a mere blink of an eye ago everyone said meant everything in terms of advantage). 

They (presumably with their more visible/vocal and polarizing colleagues Nancy Hogshead-Makar and Martina Navratilova) have created the Women's Sports Umbrella. The umbrella, they claim, allows for anyone identifying as female to have a "team" experience. But if an athlete was assigned male at birth and transitioned after the age of 12, that person cannot compete alongside women. Well unless it is an individual sport in which case fine but the scores/times do not get included with the "real women's" scores, they get put into the trans category. (But rugby and other contact team sports--forget it; they will hurt someone with their dense dense bones.) The authors do not use the term real women of course; but all their rhetoric about how trans women are category-defying makes the implication easy to pick up. 

I am going to break down pieces of their Forbes column (linked above) in a moment, but first some context. It is clear that Burton Nelson and Lopiano are playing good cop to Makar and Navratilova's fascist cop. They use terms like inclusion and advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion training for coaches, teammates and administrators (which should already be happening). They call trans athletes brave and say they should not be sidelined for being who they are. 

But they are all still cops; they are all arguing for surveillance; they are all damaging the very entity they claim to protect and serve: women's sports. Because as much as they think that they are being all post-modern by recognizing that gender is not a binary, they themselves cannot actually get out of that binary and the traditional way of thinking that has reified western gender categories. This was cemented when they wrote: "our nonbinary solution is called the Women's Sports Umbrella." 

To be fair, the binary they actually invoke is the inclusion/exclusion one. But their "third" non-binary option is inspired they say because trans women do not fit the category of woman--"biologically speaking." This is the height of cis white women privilege. They are deciding that trans women are other; that they are a third category. They are taking a huge range of trans experiences and putting it into a "third" category. 

They keep invoking biology and categorization based on biology without acknowledging that humans create these categories and definitions. For example, some people in the past (and still) think they women who love women (which Burton Nelson does according to her website which states that she has a wife) are not actually real women because real women have a biologically based desire for men. The norm is heterosexuality. The whole lesbian panic in sports is based on the idea that these women are more like men and it includes a biological component: some people believed that lesbians were biologically advantaged. And it is not just about sexuality. Many people today still believe that Black people have biological advantages. Though no one says aloud anymore that Black women should compete in their own separate categories, that based-on-science belief is not in the distant past, nor has its effects disappeared. (A cursory look at the coverage of Serena Williams attests to this.) But certainly we all know that is not true anymore, one might retort. Do we? Who gets picked out for being suspiciously masculine? Whose sexuality and gender get questioned? 

There is a lot in this piece. I could point out the lack of nuance in the thinking and the violence that this perpetuates, but I want to end on the concept of fairness which is over and again uncritically invoked here and in other pieces about trans athletes. 

SPORTS ARE NOT FAIR. This discourse has done so much damage to so many marginalized people in ways I cannot begin to enumerate. It is again being used as a weapon against marginalized people. Even if these women have decided that fairness is based on bone density and lung capacity and testosterone, they have not ideologically committed to that. Because if they had, they would be advocating to abolish gender categories and create sports categories on the basis of those factors. But that's not the umbrella they have opened. Why? Because advantage--even if we look only at biological advantage and not economic and sociopolitical and cultural--is complicated and not reduceable to neat categorization. They refuse to acknowledge this messiness because it might mean having to ditch the umbrella and reconceptualize sports. 

person in green coat in rain and wind holding tightly to inverted umbrella