The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) is comprised of four teams: the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, New York Riveters and the Connecticut Whale. Its inception in 2015 marked the first time female hockey players could be paid as professionals in the United States. The initial salaries were paltry compared to those of their male counterparts in the National Hockey League (NHL), however. Women players made between $10,000 and $26,000, says Sports Illustrated. And just one year later, due to bad attendance projections, Commissioner Dani Rylan cut salaries in half just to keep the league viable.
The NWHL isn’t just at the crossroads of the discrepancies between male/female salary caps, however. The league has been “propelled,” reports the New York Times, into the “national conversation on transgender issues.” This occurred when 23-year-old Hailey Brown, who plays for the Buffalo Beauts as a forward, told ESPN that “she” was really a “he,” and that his new first name would be Harrison. This announcement made Brown the first transgender openly playing professional sports in America. NWHL Commissioner Rylan quickly responded with new policies expressly written to support players who “express their gender beyond the binary of female and male.”
The formal policy proclamations were written with legal support from the Center for Lesbian Rights and in partnership with the advocacy group, You Can Play, an organization that advocates safety and respect for all athletes without regard to gender identity or sexual orientation struggles. The Daily Wire reports that trans advocates are “thrilled” with the new rules, calling them “groundbreaking.” Brown, whose declaration made the new rules happen, calls them “fair.”
Brown won’t be transitioning medically until he’s no longer participating in professional women’s hockey, because anyone who is receiving hormone therapy, and/or has higher than allowed testosterone levels, won’t be allowed to participate in the women’s league. Perhaps that would make females just too male to compete.
Harrison Brown isn’t too worried though. He told ESPN that he’s still got the same body and he’s still exactly “the same person” as he was when he played as Hailey Brown the previous year. He said, ” I’m just a different name and different pronouns, that’s it.”
Commissioner Rylan agrees:
“… Harrison is the same player he was last year … [and] we’re respecting his name, the pronouns and his request to be his authentic self.”
Hmmm … clear as mud.
(Photo credit: National Women’s Hockey League; Matthew Raney)