Transgender hoops player Gabrielle Ludwig almost quit the women’s basketball team at Mission College before the season ever started. Now, she plays to cheers.
Ludwig, 50, who was born a man and stands at 6-foot-6 and weighs 220 pounds, offered to quit Mission College’s women’s basketball team because she didn’t want to be a distraction or take away from the younger women’s playing time. But in a show of support, her teammates said they would quit, too, if the transgender hoops player walked away from the team.
After hearing their response, Ludwig replied to her teammates, “then let’s just play basketball,” the Associated Press reported.
And played basketball she did, scoring three points in seven minutes as a guard wearing jersey No. 42 in her first game. She followed that up with an 8-point performance, with nobody heckling her along the way.
"I got exactly what I always wanted, just to fit in and be normal like everyone else," Ludwig told the AP.
But the road wasn’t easy for the towering transgender hoops player. When news of her plans spread, she was subject to ridicule from a pair of Washington, D.C., sports talk radio hosts working for ESPN, who called her “it” and discouraged her from suiting up for Mission College.
"Whatever you've got to do to scratch that inner itch and quell those inner demons, that's fine. But don't go playing sports then. (And don't say) I've got the rights of everyone else," said ESPN 890 co-host Steve Czaban, who along with co-host Andy Pollin, was suspended over their comments, USA Today reported.
Born Robert John Ludwig, the transgender hoops player always had a love for basketball, eventually becoming a coach for her daughter in high school.
Ludwig got the gender-changing surgery about five years ago, and said the operation has made it harder for her to maintain her basketball skills.
"Yeah, I hit with a little more punch down low, but that's because I weigh 220 pounds, but I am not the only 220 woman out there," she told the AP. "It's different now. My body has changed, my strength has changed, my attitude has changed."
Ludwig coached on the Mission College campus in California and got to know the coach of the women’s basketball team, Corey Cafferata.
Cafferata supported Ludwig’s attempt to make the Mission College women’s basketball team
"Gabrielle has earned a spot on this team," he said. "She practices hard. She runs hard. She is no different from anyone on the team - she is a great, coachable player."
Also in Ludwig’s corner is Mike Perez, athletic director for Mission College.
Perez said he respected Ludwig for having a full-time job as a systems engineer for a pharmaceutical company and balancing her Mission College studies along with her spot on the women’s basketball team.
"I could tell that one, she was a person of substance and two, somebody who was really sincere about what they were trying to do," Perez told the AP. "Many people have different views, but the most important view is she ... has a right to be on this basketball team."
Teammate Amy Woo said she and the rest of her teammates have Ludwig’s back.
"We all love her," said Woo, 19. "If someone is going to talk against her, they are talking against all of us because it's like she is part of a family."