July 15, 2023 by Charlie Eisenhood in News
The Disc Golf Pro Tour announced Friday that they plan to relocate the FPO division at several of the biggest events of the season to neighboring states while canceling some FPO divisions entirely to avoid further legal exposure to lawsuits from Natalie Ryan, a transgender female disc golfer who has sued the DGPT in California and Minnesota over their new gender eligibility policy that restricts her from competing in FPO.
“These adjustments have been made in order to protect competitive fairness in the FPO division and to limit financial burden in locations where the PDGA Policy on Eligibility for Gender-Based Divisions may become the subject of last-minute litigation harmful to the tour,” wrote the DGPT in a press release.
The DGPT is canceling the FPO division at the following events and will attempt to relocate them to nearby states:
- Ledgestone Open (Elite+) [Illinois]
- Discraft Great Lakes Open (DGPT Playoff) [Michigan]
- MVP Open (DGPT Playoff) [Massachusetts]
The Tour said that it is “optimistic” about finding replacements for Ledgestone and DGLO, which would likely be held the same weekend as those events under that name (or possibly a different name). The Tour would attempt to maintain all standard media coverage, including live broadcasts on the Disc Golf Network. The replacement for the MVP Open “would take place sometime between the 2023 PDGA Pro World Championships and the U.S. Women’s Disc Golf Championship.” A DGPT spokesperson said that the Tour intends to have all of the events be worth 150 points towards the DGPT standings.
At two upcoming Silver events — the American Flying Discs Open in New York and the Discmania Open in Canada — the FPO division of the DGPT event is being outright canceled, with all DGPT points earning opportunities and media coverage scrapped and no plans for relocation. The Greater Rochester Disc Golf Club posted on Facebook that they intend to still concurrently host FPO as a standard A Tier, which notably would make Natalie Ryan eligible to play under the PDGA’s gender-based division rules.
“Competitive fairness is the underpinning of the Disc Golf Pro Tour, the professional disc golf industry, and all of elite, competitive sport worldwide,” said DGPT CEO Jeff Spring in a statement. “The DGPT is committed to the future of the FPO division, and in order to protect competitive fairness for the division, these changes are necessary at this time. We will not waiver on the PDGA Gender Eligibility Policy as we’ve adopted it for the FPO division. This said, I also want to affirm the concept that you can simultaneously respect and support transgender people and support competitive fairness for the FPO division. These are not mutually exclusive concepts, and the DGPT will continue to show respect to all people involved while thinking creatively about long-term solutions for this challenging issue.”
Multiple FPO touring players spoke out about the decision: Catrina Allen, Lisa Fajkus, and Kat Mertsch posted in support of the DGPT’s decision; Ella Hansen and Maria Oliva decried it.
“The Pro Tour just decided to cut the FPO field for five events this fall, and while I’ve been successful enough in court to not worry about my attendance in these events but I will not stand for the pain they are causing ALL of the FPO players just to make sure they can still hurt me,” Ryan wrote on Instagram. “This decision from the DGPT is wrong and no matter what the eventual path forward is, eliminating the division is not the solution.”
The Tour is not making any adjustments to the other upcoming events in 2023: the Mid-America Open [Missouri], the LWS Open at Idlewild [Kentucky], and the DGPT Championship [North Carolina]. Tounaments in the states which Donald Trump won in the 2020 Presidential election are not seeing changes; tournaments in the states which Joe Biden won are seeing cancellations or relocations, highlighting the polarized nature of state laws around transgender competition in sports.
The DGPT decision comes after some FPO players hinted on social media during the Preserve at potential changes to the FPO division at upcoming events.
The DGPT press release noted multiple times that financial liability was a major component of the decision to alter the schedule. A spokesperson for the Tour said that the DGPT has already spent more than $100,000 on the legal fights around the transgender eligibility issue.
This is a developing story — stay tuned for further updates.