‘If you’re born a man, you should play men’s sports’: NBA star weighs in on trans athletes row


NBA champion Matt Barnes has weighed into the transgender athletes row, saying trans women should not be allowed to compete in women’s competitions.

The former basketball player, 42, said that he supports the transgender community and that people should be allowed to be who they want to be – but there is no place for transgender players to compete against women in the WNBA.

Barnes pointed to transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, who was the first transgender woman to claim a national title in swimming in March, as an example of how the ‘whole dynamic’ of sport would change if transgender athletes were allowed to compete in women’s sports.

A wave of doctors have suggested Thomas – and other trans female athletes – will always have an unfair advantage in some sports because they cannot undo puberty, when their biological male bodies were flooded with testosterone. 

When asked about the potential for transgender women to play in the WNBA, Barnes said on Vlad TV: ‘I don’t like it. Whatever you’re born, I feel like you should play in that space.

‘You know, I am pro make your choice, you do you, but sport is different. Sport is a different beast.’

He added: ‘If you’re born a woman, you should play women’s sports, and if you’re born a man, you should play men’s sports. But if you want to do whatever you want with your life, I respect that, but I think that the sports thing is a little different.’

NBA champion Matt Barnes (pictured) has weighed into the transgender athletes row, saying trans women should not be allowed to compete in women’s competitions

Barnes pointed to transgender swimmer Lia Thomas (pictured), who was the first transgender woman to claim a national title in swimming in March, as an example of how the 'whole dynamic' of sport would change if transgender athletes were allowed to compete in women's sports

Barnes pointed to transgender swimmer Lia Thomas (pictured), who was the first transgender woman to claim a national title in swimming in March, as an example of how the ‘whole dynamic’ of sport would change if transgender athletes were allowed to compete in women’s sports

Barnes said that if a transgender player, who had been born a man, started to compete against women in the WNBA, it would ‘change the whole dynamic of the game’.

He added: ‘I respect any personal decision that a person might make, but when it comes to sports, I think crossing that line is a line that shouldn’t be crossed.’

Barnes referenced Thomas, the transgender swimmer who won the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships, and said she was at an advantage because she was born as a man.

After high school, Thomas earned a spot on the men’s swimming team at Penn. But by her sophomore year, she struggled with deep depression and suicidal thoughts. 

At the end of her sophomore year, she began hormone replacement therapy. 

Barnes said that if a transgender player, who had been born a man, started to compete against women in the WNBA, it would 'change the whole dynamic of the game'

Barnes said that if a transgender player, who had been born a man, started to compete against women in the WNBA, it would ‘change the whole dynamic of the game’

Thomas began swimming on the Penn women’s swimming team at the start of her senior year, following NCAA guidelines in place at the time that athletes must complete one year of hormone replacement therapy to change gender categories. 

The scrutiny over Thomas grew as she achieved far more swimming success competing against women than she did before.

Transgender athletes have now become a prominent political target, with many conservative states pushing through laws that require high school athletes to compete as the sex they were assigned at birth.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a proclamation that declared the NCAA runner-up, Florida-born Emma Weyant, as the real winner of the women’s 500 title.

The NCAA has changed its transgender eligibility guidelines to allow each sport to follow the rules set by each sport’s national governing body.

But Thomas said it’s not fair to prevent transgender people from competing in sports, or to limit them to competing only against each other.

‘In addition to not allowing the full athletic experience, that’s incredibly othering to trans people who already face immense discrimination in other parts of our lives,’ Thomas said. 

Barnes referenced Thomas, the transgender swimmer who won the women's 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships, and said she was at an advantage because she was born as a man

Barnes referenced Thomas, the transgender swimmer who won the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships, and said she was at an advantage because she was born as a man

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas reacts after finishing tied for 5th in the 200 Freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas reacts after finishing tied for 5th in the 200 Freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18

DAN WOOTTON:

Thomas (pictured in 2017) formerly competed in the men’s team and started taking hormone therapy in 2019-2020. The pandemic gave her a break in the sport and she proceeded with transition therapy

In June, swimming’s governing body, FINA, banned all transgender women from elite competitions if they didn’t begin medical treatment to suppress testosterone production before either the onset of puberty or by age 12, whichever comes later.

USA Swimming put its own policy in place earlier this year, with the idea that it would eventually follow FINA’s lead, but this week said it would need time to see how FINA’s policy affects its own. 

The FINA decision sent national swim federations scrambling.

The NCAA, which governs college sports, had sought clarity from USA Swimming because of transgender swimmer Thomas, who competed on Penn’s women’s team.

USA Swimming created a policy requiring evidence that an athlete had maintained a testosterone level less than 5 nanomoles per liter for a minimum period of 36 months. 

But the NCAA decided against immediately adopting that rule, which would have made Thomas ineligible for the national championships in March, where she won the 500-yard individual title.

When it released its policy, USA Swimming said it would remain in place until FINA adopted its own policy. In a statement Wednesday, USA Swimming said it would ‘now take our time to understand the impact of this international standard on our existing policy.’

Thomas has said she would like to pursue the Olympics; if she does, her times would likely put her in the mix to at least earn a spot at Olympic trials for the 2024 Games in Paris.

The International Rugby League has also barred transgender women from women’s matches until more studies allow for the sport’s regulators to come up with a cohesive inclusion policy. 

And the International Cycling Union in June updated its eligibility rules for transgender athletes; it increased the period during which transgender athletes on women’s teams must lower their testosterone level to two years rather than one.

 FIFA, which runs soccer, said it is ‘currently reviewing its gender eligibility regulations in consultation with expert stakeholders.’

Individual sports are taking the lead because of the International Olympic Committee framework that was introduced last November and went into effect in March placed all sports in charge of their own rules regarding testosterone. 

It replaced an IOC policy that had allowed transgender women who had been on hormone replacement therapy for at least 12 months to compete in the Olympics against other women.

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