ESPN hosts break ranks with ‘woke’ owner Disney to stand with Riley Gaines

Long criticized for pushing progressive agendas between plays, ESPN, owned by the fiercely ‘woke’ Walt Disney Company, has in recent years dutifully signaled its virtue on a number of politically-charged issues.

But for two of its star-powered hosts, Samantha Ponder and Sage Steele, the Biden administration’s move to block states from prohibiting transgender students to compete against biological females appears to be a rainbow-colored line they are unwilling to cross.

Ponder and Steele shocked liberals and conservatives alike when they broke ranks from their left-leaning bosses and voiced their support on social media for former NCAA champion swimmer Riley Gaines, who has bravely led the charge to save women’s sports in America.

Earlier this week, Gaines posted to Twitter a video of trans swimmer Lia Thomas discussing her title of “Division 1 NCAA Champion.”

Thomas blasted the Department of Education’s proposed new rule regarding Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools and other federally-funded education programs, and its treatment of transgender athletes.

“It would not prohibit discrimination against trans kids in the high school and college levels, under the guise of competitive fairness,” Thomas said.

And this rule, Thomas stated, “breaks my heart.”

Thomas called on the Biden administration to amend the rule “and grant equal protection for all transgender kids, because all transgender kids deserve the opportunity to compete and play in the sport they love without compromising who they are.”

Gaines was quick to call Thomas out.

“Under the guise of competitive fairness? Are you really trying to say you would have won a national title against the men? Does it not break your heart to see women lose out on these opportunities?” she asked. “The Biden Admins proposed bill denies science, truth, and common sense.”

“This take is selfish and shows an utter disregard for women,” Gaines continued. “The Biden Administration is actively and aggressively working to pass laws that erase decent and fair treatment for women in sports.”

In a move that Gaines called courageous, Steele and Ponder publicly took her side.

“This is heartbreaking, maddening, and really difficult to watch,” Steele tweeted. “I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and be relieved that this was all just a ridiculous, comical, nonsensical dream….”

“This would take away so many opportunities for biological women and girls in sports,” Ponder wrote. “It is a shame that we are needing to fight for the integrity of Title IX in 2023 and the reason it was needed in the first place.”

Both women included the hashtag, “#savewomenssports.”

“Women with influential platforms are beginning to speak out to the injustice of men competing against women. These women in particular have a lot to lose by using their voice, yet chose to anyways. That is what courage is.,” Gaines told Fox News Digital. “I’m so honored to be able to lean on them as we continue forward with advocating for sex-protected sporting categories.”

According to Adriana McLamb, a former Division 1 volleyball player and spokeswoman for the Independent Women’s Forum, Gaines and those who support her are on the right side of history — even if “woke” Disney chooses not to be.

“It is promising to see big names like Sage Steele and Sam Ponder speak out even though their employer ESPN chooses to remain woke,” McLamb told Fox News Digital.

“Now more than ever, it is important for us as female athletes to rally behind Riley Gaines and fight for Title IX,” she said. “We are fighting for all current and future female athletes to compete on a fair playing field just like our predecessors fought for our right to compete to begin with.”

OutKick’s Charly Arnolt, a former ESPN personality, joined Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” on Thursday and applauded Steele and Ponder for taking a stand.

“I have to commend these two women for standing up for these women who, unfortunately, are losing so much of the success that they worked so hard for,” she said.

“As far as ESPN, I don’t really know what their plan is, as far as whether they talk to these women or address it on-air,” Arnolt continued. “I would hope that this would be something they would address, but up to this point they remain completely mum on this topic, so I’m not sure exactly what happens.”

Melissa Fine

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