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Braceras: NCAA displays pro-trans, anti-female athlete bias

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Leavitt: Biological men competing in women’s sports is unacceptable

Once again, female college swimmers have been told to sit down and shut up in the face of what one athlete’s mother describes as “obvious sexism and discrimination.”

Last week, the National Collegiate Athletic Association rejected pleas from the parents of female Ivy League swimmers to restrict women’s sports to biological females. The female swimmers have been forced this season to compete against male-bodied athlete Lia Thomas, who previously competed for the University of Pennsylvania men’s team as Will Thomas. Controversy erupted late last year when Thomas began easily smashing women’s records.

But rather than support female athletes, the NCAA reaffirmed its long-standing policy in favor of transgender participation in women’s sports and kicked the can downhill, placing responsibility for sport-specific testosterone levels in the hands of the individual governing bodies for each sport.

The parents of the female swimmers are rightly concerned that inclusion of male-bodied athletes in women’s sports discriminates against their daughters. Athletes, like Thomas, who have experienced puberty have a significant competitive advantage over female athletes. (That’s why we have separate categories for men’s and women’s sports to begin with.)

And while suppressing one’s testosterone after the advent of male puberty can reduce a person’s athletic capacity, studies demonstrate that hormone therapy does not come close to closing the male-female athletic gap.

Allowing male-bodied athletes to compete in a women’s division doesn’t just discriminate by reducing the chances for females to win. It also discriminates by limiting opportunities for females merely to compete. That’s because when a male-bodied athlete competes on a limited roster women’s team or participates in a championship women’s meet, a female athlete loses a spot.

But that’s not all women lose. They also lose their self-confidence.

“Everybody is talking about inclusion,” a parent told me, “but nobody seems to care that our daughters are being excluded in a way that impacts their body image. This has been traumatizing for them.”

Sadly, the feelings of the female swimmers seem not to matter.

For its part, the Ivy League has gone out of its way to emphasize its “unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all student-athletes while condemning transphobia and discrimination in any form.” Got that? It’s inclusive to everyone, except female athletes. And if you don’t think post-pubescent male-bodied athletes should compete on women’s teams, you’re a bigot.

UPenn, in particular, has responded by suggesting that the young women seek counseling. “We’ve encouraged our student-athletes to utilize the robust resources available to them at Penn, and I’d like to share them with you as well,” the school wrote to parents of the young women. The letter provides links to “counseling and psychological services, the LGBT Center, Restorative Practices and our Center for Student-Athlete Success staff.”

Because, of course, anyone who has a different viewpoint when it comes to transgender participation in women’s sports is either transphobic or mentally ill.

This is textbook gaslighting.

It’s bad enough that college and athletic officials imposed their discriminatory policies without seeking input from the female athletes or taking steps to prevent females from being excluded. Athletes fear repercussions if they speak out against allowing Thomas to compete in the women’s division.

University officials should be on notice: Employees who discourage women from reporting or speaking out about sex discrimination are themselves guilty of discrimination in violation of Title IX.

Ironically, most major women’s organizations have remained silent. So have the editorial pages of the nation’s major newspapers.

“Move along, nothing to see here,” they seem to say.

But, of course, there is lots to see here: the erasure of biological sex as a legally meaningful category as well as the systemic subordination of women and the silencing of female voices. Shame on those who won’t speak up for female athletes.


Jennifer C. Braceras is director of Independent Women’s Law Center and lead author of “Competition: Title IX, Male-Bodied Athletes and the Threat to Women’s Sports.”

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Ukraine: More than 260 fighters evacuated from Mariupol mill

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Ukraine: More than 260 fighters evacuated from Mariupol mill

By OLEKSANDR STASHEVSKYI and CIARAN McQUILLAN

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A Ukrainian military official said more than 260 fighters, including some who are badly wounded, were evacuated Monday from a steel plant in the city of Mariupol and taken to areas under Russia’s control.

Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken to a hospital in Novoazovsk. An additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor. An exchange would be worked out for their return home, she said.

Malyar said missions are underway to rescue the remaining fighters inside the plant, the last stronghold of resistance in the ruined southern port city of Mariupol.

“Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, Ukraine gained critically important time,” she said. “And they fulfilled all their tasks. But it is impossible to unblock Azovstal by military means.”

Earlier Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced an agreement for the wounded to leave the steelworks for treatment in a town held by pro-Moscow separatists.

After nightfall Monday, several buses pulled away from the steel mill accompanied by Russian military vehicles.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Moscow suffered another diplomatic setback Monday in its war with Ukraine as Sweden joined Finland in deciding to seek NATO membership, while Ukraine’s president congratulated soldiers who reportedly pushed Russian forces back near the border.

Russian forces pounded targets in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas, and the death toll, already many thousands, kept climbing with the war set to enter its 12th week on Wednesday.

The eastern city of Sievierdonetsk came under heavy shelling that killed at least 10 people, said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region. In the Donetsk region, Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Facebook that nine civilians were killed in shelling.

But Ukrainian troops also advanced as Russian forces pulled back from around the northeastern city of Kharkiv in recent days. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the soldiers who reportedly pushed all the way to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region in a symbolic gain.

Video showed Ukrainian soldiers carrying a post that resembled a Ukrainian blue-and-yellow-striped border marker. Then they placed it on the ground while a dozen of the soldiers posed next to it, including one with belts of bullets draped over a shoulder.

“I’m very grateful to you, on behalf of all Ukrainians, on my behalf and on behalf of my family,” Zelenskyy said in a video message. “I’m very grateful to all the fighters like you.”

The Ukrainian border service said the video showing the soldiers was from the border “in the Kharkiv region,” but would not elaborate, citing security reasons. It was not immediately possible to verify the exact location.

Ukrainian border guards said they also stopped a Russian attempt to send sabotage and reconnaissance troops into the Sumy region, some 90 miles (146 kilometers) northwest of Kharkiv.

Russia has been plagued by setbacks in the war, most glaringly in its failure early on to take the capital of Kyiv. Much of the fighting has shifted to the Donbas but also has turned into a slog, with both sides fighting village-by-village.

Howitzers from the U.S. and other countries have helped Kyiv hold off or gain ground against Russia, a senior U.S. defense official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. military assessment, said Ukraine has pushed Russian forces to within a half-mile to 2.5 miles (1 to 4 kilometers) of Russia’s border but could not confirm if it was all the way to the frontier.

The official said Russian long-range strikes also appeared to target a Ukrainian military training center in Yavoriv, near the Polish border. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

A glimmer of hope emerged for wounded Ukrainian troops trapped in the remains of a giant steel plant, the last stronghold of resistance in the shattered port city of Mariupol. The Russian Defense Ministry announced an agreement for the wounded to leave the steelworks for treatment in a town held by pro-Moscow separatists.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Ukrainian side, and there was no word on whether the wounded would be considered prisoners of war.

After nightfall Monday, several buses pulled away from the steel mill accompanied by Russian military vehicles, but it wasn’t clear who was on the buses.

The international response to the Russian invasion picked up pace.

Sweden’s decision to seek NATO membership followed a similar decision by neighboring Finland in a historic shift for the counties, which were nonaligned for generations.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her country would be in a “vulnerable position” during the application period and urged her fellow citizens to brace themselves.

“Russia has said that that it will take countermeasures if we join NATO,” she said. “We cannot rule out that Sweden will be exposed to, for instance, disinformation and attempts to intimidate and divide us.”

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO member, ratcheted up his objection to their joining. He accused the countries of failing to take a “clear” stance against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers terrorists, and of imposing military sanctions on Turkey.

He said Swedish and Finnish officials who are expected in Turkey next week should not bother to come if they intend to try to convince Turkey of dropping its objection.

“How can we trust them?” Erdogan asked at a joint news conference with the visiting Algerian president.

All 30 current NATO members must agree to let the Nordic neighbors join.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow “does not have a problem” with Sweden or Finland as they apply for NATO membership, but that “the expansion of military infrastructure onto this territory will of course give rise to our reaction in response.”

Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24 in what he said was an effort to check NATO’s expansion but has seen that strategy backfire. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the membership process for both could be quick.

Europe is also working to choke off funding for the Kremlin’s war by reducing the billions of dollars it spends on imports of Russian energy. A proposed EU embargo faces opposition from some countries dependent on Russian imports, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bulgaria also has reservations.

“We will do our best in order to deblock the situation,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. “I cannot ensure that it is going to happen because positions are quite strong.”

Also Monday, McDonald’s said it has started selling its business in Russia, ending a relationship that has lasted more than three decades. It cited the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, noting that staying in Russia “is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.” The company was the first fast-food restaurant to open in the Soviet Union.

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McQuillan reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov and Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Elena Becatoros in Odesa and other AP staffers around the world contributed.

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Cardinals-Mets game postponed because of rain; doubleheader on Tuesday

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Cardinals-Mets game postponed because of rain; doubleheader on Tuesday

It was humid, and the sun was poking out of the clouds above Citi Field when the Mets announced that due to severe weather forecast for later in the evening, their series opener against the Cardinals on Monday was postponed.

The matchup was rescheduled as part of a single-admission doubleheader on Tuesday, beginning at 3:10 p.m. The gates at Citi Field will open one hour before first pitch, at 2:10 p.m. Game two will begin 30-40 minutes following the conclusion of game one.

“With severe weather in the area, we are thinking about everyone’s safety, so tonight’s game has been postponed,” the Mets said in a statement.

The rain, though flagged as a severe thunderstorm watch, was expected to clear out of Flushing by the 7:10 p.m. first pitch on Monday. The Mets did not make a team official available to provide clarity on their decision, as the home team, to postpone the game.

Alas, a doubleheader on Tuesday may just work to the Amazin’s benefit considering their sub-optimal pitching plans.

Taijuan Walker will take the mound Tuesday on his scheduled start day and Trevor Williams will get another one of those starts, but as of Monday evening the team did not announce which order they will pitch in.

With Tylor Megill (right biceps tendinitis) landing on the injured list, retroactive to May 12, the Mets were in need of a spot starter for Monday. Right-hander Williams, typically the team’s long relief option out of the bullpen, was scheduled to pitch Monday’s series opener against Cardinals right-hander Miles Mikolas. But Williams was likely not the Mets’ first choice against a 19-15 second place St. Louis squad.

The Mets have a 5-1 record in doubleheaders this season. They will look to rebound after a tough loss against the Mariners at home on Sunday, which led to their first series loss of the season — after a franchise record 9-0-1 start to the year.

There may even be some animosity lingering between the Cards and Mets after the two teams brawled at Busch Stadium the last time they played each other, just three weeks ago. The Mets, who lead the majors with 24 hit by pitches, were emotional after the Cardinals drilled yet another Met, J.D. Davis, which partly led to the benches-clearing incident in St. Louis.

Mets reliever Yoan Lopez sent a fastball up and in to Nolan Arenado, who then shouted and motioned at Lopez before pushing catcher Tomas Nido and the teams spilled onto the field. Arenado and Cardinals pitcher Genesis Cabrera, who pulled Pete Alonso’s collar during the on-field incident, both received suspensions and fines from MLB. But, to manager Buck Showalter’s surprise, Cardinals coach Stubby Clapp, who wrestled Alonso to the ground bear-hug style, did not receive either a suspension or a fine.

Tuesday will be the first time the Cardinals and Mets meet since the kerfuffle in the series finale, a 10-5 Mets loss, at Busch Stadium on April 27.

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After struggles in playoffs, Kevin Fiala knows his future with Wild is uncertain

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After struggles in playoffs, Kevin Fiala knows his future with Wild is uncertain

Wild winger Kevin Fiala noted the small sample size when talking about his most recent playoff struggles. After the best regular season in franchise history, the Wild fell 4-2 in an opening-round, best-of-7 series with the St. Louis Blues.

Who knows what could have happened if the Wild made a deep playoff run instead? Maybe then Fiala would have caught fire at some point like he has been known to do throughout his career.

Instead, the Wild bowed out in the first round with Fiala’s continued playoff struggles serving as a big reason. The 25-year-old from Switzerland posted a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists during the regular season. He followed up that with no goals in the postseason.

“It’s been tough days,” Fiala said Monday after having the weekend to digest yet another early exit. “You just feel very empty.”

That emptiness is exacerbated by the fact that Fiala’s future with the Wild is uncertain.

He is due a big raise after emerging as an elite goal scorer this season. Perhaps somewhere in the range of $8 million a year.

Will the Wild be able to afford him? Unlikely. Do the Wild even want to afford him? Unclear.

After not giving Fiala a long-term contract last offseason, it’s hard to imagine general manager Bill Guerin will feel much differently this offseason. As much as Fiala dominated play late in the regular season, he went silent once again the playoffs. That’s a problem.

“I tried my best; I tried to get it going,” he said. “It’s just such a shame to go out like that.”

Asked if he thinks he will be back with the Wild next season, Fiala struggled to find the right words.

“There’s no other answer than, ‘We’ll see,’ ” Fiala said. “I don’t know.”

If money wasn’t a factor, there’s no doubt the Wild would want to retain Fiala. He’s a very good player who became an even better player this season.

Not only did Fiala refine his skills in many facets this season, he also became tougher mentally, learning to deal with frustration in a much healthier way than earlier in his career.

Unfortunately for Fiala, after showing so much growth during the regular season, he seemed to let the frustration get the best of him throughout the playoffs. He failed to capitalize on a few scoring chances early in the series against the Blues, and the frustration seemed to increase from there.

“In the playoffs, it feels like you really want to be the difference because every game is so big,” Fiala said. “In the regular season, you can kind of be more quiet in your head and chill kind of because it’s 82 games.”

As for how he is approaching this offseason, Fiala is trying not to think too much. There’s no point since most of this is now out of his hands.

“I’m relaxed right now,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do.”

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