Meadville Tribune

March 12, 2013

WALK TALK: The complex subject of transgender athletes

By Dan Walk
Meadville Tribune

— 1 A bit of a debate has started about Fallon Fox, who is a transgender mixed martial artist who was born a man but is fighting against women since Fox had hormonal therapy. But Fox doesn’t compete in the UFC, so not as much of a commotion has been raised. She has, however, been featured in Sports Illustrated and on CNN. The current issue is that Fox’s fighting license is currently under review. And Florida and California’s fighting commissions aren’t sure how to respond to claims from other females that Fox has an unfair advantage.

2 A transgender athlete who was born a man but is now fighting women is a tricky situation. Fox feels like a woman — mentally, physically and emotionally. But is it fair for someone born a man to fight women? A number of sports have have transgender athletes, most notably golf and tennis. But MMA is a whole different situation. The goal of every fight is to leave your opponent unconscious or cause him or her to submit. Whether Fox has an advantage over other women is unknown. The science isn’t quite there yet. It’s all doctors’ hunches and assumptions right now. Until we figure out exactly what’s going on, it’s hard to place judgment one way or another. That said, it would be best to wait until we have scientific evidence on whether Fox has an advantage before she fights women again.

3 Now that we’re more than a month removed from the Super Bowl, the NFL’s unofficial start to the 2013 season begins this afternoon. The league’s free agency period starts today, leading up to April’s draft; then training camps will be underway before we know it. The biggest name of the free agent market is former Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace. Odds are, the Steelers let Wallace walk. We’ll find out next season if not giving Wallace a long-term deal is a mistake, but when Pittsburgh gave fellow wideout Antonio Brown a new deal, the writing was on the wall.

4 Among the teams expected to make a splash in free agency are the Browns, who begin their first full season under new ownership. Better yet, Cleveland is nearly $50 million under the salary cap. The Browns have a number of needs all over the field, but the first position they should be looking at is wide receiver, where Wallace, Greg Jennings and Wes Welker are among the wideouts expected to be looking for a team. If Brandon Weeden is Cleveland’s future at quarterback, Greg Little and Josh Gordon aren’t enough to propel the Browns’ passing game to anywhere close to elite status.

5 The two biggest running back free agents are Steven Jackson and Reggie Bush, who have been rumored to receive strong interest from the Falcons and Lions, respectively. Both pass-happy teams are in need of an elite runner. Another one of the free agents of note is former Steelers linebacker James Harrison. I feel as if letting Wallace walk is a bad decision, but Pittsburgh was on-point by letting go of Harrison, who turns 35 in two months. Harrison wouldn’t accept a pay cut, so he was released. Now it’s time to see if Jason Worilds can step in his place.

6 The NFL’s free agency will surely grab a number of headlines, but with MLB spring training a few weeks old, baseball interest is starting to grow. But one thing is for sure: Americans’ budding excitement for baseball is all about the upcoming MLB season and not the World Baseball Classic, which continues through March 19. But the WBC isn’t about us Americans. It’s all about continually growing the sport internationally. Not until Team USA reaches the championship game will we really care. The U.S. competes in tonight’s second round, but is anyone over here truly watching?

7 The biggest thing that annoys me about the WBC is its timing. Every four years, MLB players — many of them are All-Stars — will be pushed away from their preseason routines because they’re playing in supposedly important games in March. As an Indians fan, I want Carlos Santana to work on improving his swing and career .247 batting average during spring training, not trying to win a world championship for the Dominican Republic.

8 I finally got a chance to see Argo on Sunday, and it’s great (for those who haven’t seen it yet). During the trailers, I caught my first glimpse of the movie “42,” which documents Jackie Robinson breaking down racial barriers by signing with baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers. The movie comes out on April 12 and is a must see whether you’re a baseball fan or not.

9 Injuries and ineffectiveness have left the Cleveland Cavaliers at 21-42 and far from the possibility of clinching their first playoff spot during the post-LeBron James era. Among Cleveland’s season-changing injuries have come to star Kyrie Irving, who might just be a top five point guard in just his second NBA season. Considering Irving may be out up to a month with a sprained left shoulder, the Cavs would be wise to sit him for the rest of the season, even if he is healthy enough to play the last week or so. Cleveland’s season is clearly over — Irving and the Cavs need to start looking toward a healthy 2013-14 campaign.

10 The somewhat-calm before the storm happens this week in college basketball. A few conference championships were decided Monday night, while the rest of the conference championships will be won by Sunday — Selection Sunday. Some may argue that this week is more exciting than the NCAA tournament considering all of the tiny schools from small conferences clinch spots in the Big Dance — and they know full-well they have no shot at winning an NCAA tournament game against some of the nation’s elite groups. It’s all or nothing for teams like Mount St. Mary’s and LIU Brooklyn, who will face off tonight in the Northeast tournament final.

The preceding was Walk Talk, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at