ESPN announcers have moment of silence during NCAA women's basketball games to protest Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill
During the opening day of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, two ESPN announcers launched a silent protest against Florida House Bill 1557, titled the "Parental Rights in Education" but dubbed by critics the "Don’t Say Gay" bill.
At the start of the second half of the game between top-seeded South Carolina and 16th-seeded Howard, Carolyn Peck and Courtney Lyle spoke in "solidarity and support" of their Disney colleagues in opposition to the bill. The two announcers then went silent during gameplay.
The silent protests resumed Saturday, including during the all-Florida matchup between the Florida Gators and UCF Knights, when Pam Ward and Stephanie White followed suit.
Disney, which owns ESPN, and its CEO Bob Chapek have come under fire from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for opposition to the bill, which has gained worldwide attention for restricting speech in public school classrooms on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill was also met with walkouts among students throughout the state of Florida and protests.
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Courtney Lyle, Carolyn Peck discuss their protest, then go silent during South Carolina vs. Howard
After ESPN came back from commercial during Friday's game between No. 1 overall seed South Carolina and Howard, Lyle said: "Normally at this time we would take a look back at the first half. But there are things bigger than basketball that need to be addressed at this time. Our friends our family, our co-workers — the players and coaches in our community are hurting right now.
"At 3 o'clock, about eight minutes ago, our LGBTQIA+ teammates at Disney asked for our solidarity and support including our company's support in opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Bill in the state of Florida and similar legislation across the United States."
Peck added: "A threat to any human rights is a threat to all human rights. At this time, Courtney and I, we're going to take a pause from our broadcast to show our love and support for our friends, our family and our colleagues."
Lyle and Peck then proceeded to stay silent as the game between South Carolina and Howard continued for two minutes.
Pam Ward, Stephanie White take part in moment of silence during UConn vs. Mercer and Florida vs. UCF
Ward and White took part in the protest after halftime of both games they called Saturday in Storrs, Connecticut.
"We're going to take this time to talk to you about a legislative issue in Florida and in a growing number of states that have been targeting and hurting the LGBTQIA+ community," Ward said before the UConn-Mercer game started the third quarter. "Leaders of that community with whom we work at Disney and at ESPN have organized some walkouts and silent shows of unity in broadcasts, and Steph and I want to show our support and solidarity with calls for accountability and responsibility to protect all human rights."
White then spoke: "And I want to thank all our colleagues and teammates at ESPN for being allies and supporting our community and our families. It's personal to me. My children will be affected by legislation such as this, and it's about human rights. It's about our rights as a family, and we'll take this moment to stay silent and to support our cause and to support our colleagues and teammates."
Ward and White said the same after halftime of Florida-UCF. They remained silent until the first stoppage of play in the third quarter.
The legislation passed on March 8 in the Florida Senate by a vote of 22-17. DeSantis has suggested he will sign the bill into law, and if he does, it will go into effect on July 1.