ESPN host Sam Ponder came under fire Sunday because her support for keeping women’s sports fair and just was the subject of an opinion column by USA Today’s Nancy Armor.

Ponder and his ESPN colleague Sage Steele expressed their support for Riley Gaines, who has taken the reins to lead calls for transgender athletes to participate in sports against the gender they were born with rather than the gender with which they identify. Gaines has been at the forefront since he tied with Lia Thomas for the NCAA Championship in 2022.

Ponder recently spoke out on the issue again after Gaines tweeted messages he received about transgender high school runners participating in the girls’ division in California.


Riley Gaines speaks during a discussion about transgender athletes in women’s sports during a national girls and women in sports event on February 1, 2023 in Washington, DC (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

«I’ve barely said anything publicly on this topic and so many people have messaged me, stop me on the street to say thank you and tell me stories about girls who are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs or being called hateful. It’s not hateful to demand justice in sports for girls,» Ponder tweeted.

However, Armor called Ponder’s words «plain intolerance» in her column.

«Don’t be fooled by people who squeal about ‘justice’ to cover up their bigotry for transgender girls and women, transgender girls and women who have the audacity to want to play sports, in particular,» Armor began in the column.

«This is, and always was, about hate, fear and ignorance.»

Armor particularly took issue with Ponder choosing to speak on this topic rather than talk about how girls’ and women’s sports are not funded equally with boys and men.


Sam Ponder in 2018

Samantha Ponder speaks at Inside the Game Q&A presented by IFA on February 2, 2018 in Minneapolis. (Thaddaeus McAdams/Wire Image)

«Did Ponder use his platform to express his outrage over any of this? Did he urge his almost half a million followers on Twitter to write or call their representatives and demand that women receive the funds and opportunities they rightfully deserve? «Did you publicly participate in or even tweet about any of the great documentaries, videos, and commentary ESPN did to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX last year,» Armor wrote.

«No, he didn’t. His public concern about ‘fairness’ for female athletes begins and ends with the minuscule number of transgender women participating in sports.»

Armor accused Ponder of putting transgender people in further danger with her tweets «by further amplifying the message that cisgender women’s participation in sports is being threatened by transgender girls and young women.»

Armor concluded that Ponder’s views have nothing to do with «fairness».

Earlier this month, a Washington Post-KFF poll showed that the majority of American adults believe gender is determined at birth and are against biological males competing in women’s sports.

Sixty-six percent of American adults do not believe that biological men should be allowed to compete in women’s sports competitions at the high school level, while 34% support biological men competing against women.

Riley Gaines and Lia Thomas

Riley Gaines, now a spokesperson for the Independent Women’s Forum, tied Lia Thomas for fifth in the 200 freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships last year. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

When it comes to college and professional sports, 65% of American adults don’t believe that biological men should be able to compete in women’s sports, while 34% in both categories support the idea.


In youth sports, 62% of American adults did not believe that biological men should be allowed to compete against biological girls, while 37% were behind in allowing transgender girls to compete with biological girls.

Fox News’ Houston Keene contributed to this report.