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ESPN broadcasters protest Florida’s new controversial LGBTQ law during NCAA Women’s Tournament

The commentators held a moment of silence to show support for the LGBTQ community.

Broadcasters Courtney Lyle and Carolyn Peck weren’t afraid to mix politics and sports.
Screenshot via Awful Announcing

Add these ESPN broadcasters to the long list of Disney employees who are speaking out against Florida’s new controversial legislation pertaining to the discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools.

During Friday’s broadcast of the NCAA Women’s Tournament, commentators Courtney Lyle and Carolyn Peck went silent to begin the second half of a first-round matchup between South Carolina and Howard University. They said their silence was a gesture of support towards the LGBTQ community.

“There are things bigger than basketball that need to be addressed at this time,” Lyle said. “Our friends, our family, our coworkers, the players and coaches in this community are hurting right now.”

Peck, who was head coach of the women’s team at the University of Florida and coach-general manager of the WNBA’s Orlando Miracle, added “a threat to any human rights is a threat to all human rights.”

When they broke their two minutes of silence, Lyle said “we love our teammates, we support our teammates, and we are one.”

Anchor Elle Duncan also protested the bill with a moment of silent during her halftime report.

“To be honest with you, we thought we were going to come here today and really celebrate a sport that has meant so much and done so much including for so many in the LGBTQIA+ communities, but we understand the gravity of this legislation,” she said. “Because of that, our allyship is going to take a front seat.”

Earlier this month, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill into law. Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, the legislation seeks to curtail discussion of gender and sexuality issues among younger students.

While debate over the legislation has persisted for weeks, there’s a lot of confusion about what the bill actually says. The New York Times recently published a helpful line-by-line explainer of the law’s most important text, which goes well beyond gay rights.

The most contentious section of the bill deals with in-school discussion regarding LGBTQ issues. It says “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Proponents of the bill, such as Gov. DeSantis, are quick to point out the ban on classroom discussion only applies to the state’s youngest students. However, the legislation’s vague wording leaves up a lot for interpretation. For example, who decides what material is “age” or “developmentally appropriate?”

The law also requires schools to notify parents when children receive mental, emotional or physical health services, unless educators believe disclosure of that information could lead to “abuse, abandonment, or neglect.”

This graphic shared on Instagram by gay former athlete Greg Buttle Jr., son of former Jets linebacker Greg Buttle, does a nice job articulating some of the misunderstanding regarding LGBTQ inclusive education.

Screenshot via Cyd Zeigler

Interestingly enough, there’s been a dearth of reaction from athletes, both LGBTQ and straight, about the legislation. Some of that might have to do with the complexities of the bill. Activism fatigue could also be playing a factor.

Many Disney employees, however, have been vocal about their opposition to the law. Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek is holding a town hall Monday to address concerns about his originally muted reaction to the legislation (he apologized last week).

ESPN, which is owned by Disney, had several employees join the companywide walkout over the issue — including Lyle, Peck and Duncan. Disney has long been LGBTQ friendly, featuring gay characters in many of its films.

As Duncan mentioned, it’s apropos the issue was addressed during the NCAA Women’s Tournament, given the large number of out female basketball players and coaches. ESPN feature writer Katie Barnes, who’s openly LGBTQ, thanked their co-workers for the show of solidarity.

“I cannot adequately express the amount of love I have for my ESPN colleagues,” they tweeted. “I just watched two minutes of quiet basketball as our broadcast expressed solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community against the legislation targeting our community.”