Maybe you saw it? Last month, a British rapper posted a video to Twitter making fun of transgender athletes and the controversy over trans inclusion.
It earned Zuby more than a million views, tens of thousands of “likes” and more than 12-thousand retweets, plus international news coverage... including the website of WQAD-TV, the Tribune-owned ABC affiliate in Moline, Ill.
I keep hearing about how biological men don't have any physical strength advantage over women in 2019...— ZUBY: (@ZubyMusic) February 26, 2019
So watch me DESTROY the British Women's deadlift record without trying.
P.S. I identified as a woman whilst lifting the weight. Don't be a bigot. pic.twitter.com/dYRraHCB42
Zuby claimed to have “identified as a woman” during his deadlift stunt. But to transgender, gender non-conforming people and allies, this was an insult and a mockery of this marginalized group’s battle for acceptance.
That didn’t seem to matter to WQAD.com web producer, Brody Wooddell, who until Outsports contacted the station, was known on the station’s official website as “The Effortless Adonis.”
Wooddell made no effort to tell the Zuby story in a balanced fashion, and instead composed a decidedly one-sided post about the tweet and the trans inclusion debate: “Male rapper identifying as female, informally breaks female dead-lift record to prove a point.”
In addition to showing the Zuby video, he included “examples” such as a mention of the race run by two trans teens in Connecticut — citing only their victories, not the races they didn’t win — and Fallon Fox’s 2014 bout in which she did what MMA fighters are supposed to do: beat up your opponent. Below, a screengrab from Wooddell’s original story:
Then Wooddell, 22, shared the station’s Facebook post of his web story, which asked followers where they stood in the debate over trans women athletes and if what Zuby did was fair. He added that “this is a very complicated debate in sports competition today.”
But then he doubled-down and suggested the only solution is for trans athletes “to have their own category like it is normally.” A follower of Wooddell’s commented “It’s a tough thing since trans people are trying to carve out a space to compete in... part of the growing pain of accepting trans people as people.”
Wooddell, the news director, assistant news director, general manager and website manager at WQAD-TV all declined to comment when contacted by Outsports. Managers who asked to remain anonymous did say Wooddell’s post wasn’t representative of the station’s viewpoint and felt that “as a young 22-year-old journalist, he learned a very valuable lesson.”
With the approval of management, WQAD’s website manager worked with the managing editor at Outsports to rewrite the story, and to add content that provided much needed balance and information about the transgender inclusion debate.
The first change is to the headline, which now reads, “Male rapper identifying as female, declares he broke female deadlift record.” That’s not exactly the same as a transgender person declaring how they identify, but at least it’s no longer inaccurate.
Wooddell’s name has been removed from the article, and his bio no longer describes him as WQAD’s “Effortless Adonis.”
The story now says Zuby was “trolling the debate of transgender people competing in athletic events.”
The new article quotes both Outsports as well as Zuby, in his appearance on right-wing demagogue Ben Shapiro’s radio show, as well as trans powerlifter JayCee Cooper. There’s far more information about the Connecticut trans teens and Fallon Fox. Links are provided to both research and the policies of international sporting agencies regarding transgender athletes. Overall WQAD.com now presents a balanced perspective on the inclusion debate. You can read it by clicking here.
Pro-tip: If you spot transphobia or homophobia in mainstream media reporting, don’t just get angry. Look up the contact information for that newspaper, website, TV or radio station and let the management know your opinion, and where you feel they didn’t serve you. And let us know, too. The news media’s role is to serve all viewers, readers and listeners, and broadcasters risk losing advertisers and even their FCC license if they don’t.