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NFL Star Says ‘Men Play Men’s Sports, Women Play Women’s Sports’

The comments from Rob Gronkowski come after years of intense debate about accommodation for gender identity in sports

A former professional football player has weighed in on the national debate about gender and the fate of women’s sports.

Rob Gronkowski, a former member of the New England Patriots, said in a recent interview that it should be “obvious” that men should not be permitted to play in women’s sports.

“There’s really no thoughts to really even share,” he told Fox News Digital. “There are men’s sports for men, there’s women’s sports for women. It should just stay like that. It’s just as simple as that, man.”

“There’s really no argument,” Gronkowski continued. “There should really be no conversation about it.”

“How it’s been is how it should be. Men play men’s sports, women play women’s sports. It’s as simple as that,” he went on. “It’s really unfair if a man went into a women’s sport and played it. It just doesn’t really make much sense to me.”

Gronkowski was previously asked by a reporter from the Daily Caller if men should be permitted to play in women’s leagues when the 34-year-old visited the U.S. Capitol in September. At the time, Gronkowski shook his head no but did not comment further.

Known to his fans as Gronk, Gronkowski is an accomplished athlete who retired in 2022 after 11 seasons with the NFL. He won the Super Bowl three times with the Patriots and once with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has been a Pro Bowler five times and was a first-team All-Pro player four times.

States across the country are divided on how best to balance protections for transgender-identifying people and incurring opportunities for female athletes.

As of August 2023, 23 states had adopted laws that prohibited biological males who identify as transgender women from participating in women’s sports. At least five – Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas – also barred biological females who identify as transgender males from competing on teams that do not correspond with their biological gender. 

The enactment of such regulations has spread rapidly as the issue of women’s sports has gained national attention. In 2020, Idaho was the only state that required students to compete on teams that corresponded with their sex at birth. One year later, eight additional states had passed similar policies. That total climbed to 18 in 2022 and 23 in 2023, per ESPN.

In contrast, several states require public schools and universities to allow transgender-identifying athletes to participate in sports based on their gender preferences. This includes California, where students are not required to submit medical or legal documentation of their gender identity, Delaware, where students must provide an updated birth certificate or have a doctor certify that they are transitioning their gender, and Oregon, where the state’s School Activities Association will recognize a student’s preferred gender once a parent or guardian notifies his or her school.

Some have argued that by supporting laws that allow biological men to compete in women’s sports or use facilities designated for women to accommodate gender identity, the Biden administration has failed to ensure protection guaranteed under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

For many people, it’s the most important federal civil rights law that protects women because it’s the only one that doesn’t include other educational characteristics. It’s only to guarantee sex equality,” said Sarah Parshall Perry, a senior legal fellow for The Heritage Foundation, on the Heritage Explains podcast in April of 2022. “Title IX is specifically guaranteed to protect women’s interests.”

Parshall Perry continued:

This is really just the beginning of an expansive definition of sex to include gender identity, that is going to open up locker rooms, bathrooms, dorm rooms, housing accommodations, scholarships, sports, admissions. This is really going to get to a point where what we’ve achieved for the past 50 years through Title IX … is all going to be rolled back. That’s not progress, regardless of the administration’s statements on being progressive, it’s actually regressive. It sends us backward.

Gronkowski’s comments to Fox also come roughly three weeks after Haley Van Voorhis’ debut as the first woman to appear in an NCAA college football game in a position other than kicker or punter. Van Voorhis is a junior at Shenandoah University in Virginia and took the field as a safety during a game against Juniata College on Sept. 23.

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