February 22, 2024

FPO Division: DGPT’s Controversial Stand Amidst Strife


Breaking from the Disc Golf Pro Tour (DGPT), they have canceled the following FPO tournaments: Ledgestone, Great Lakes Open, American Flying Discs Open, Discmania Open, and MVP Open. This leaves the Mid-America Open, Idlewild, and DGPT Championship. The DGPT said in a press release, “These adjustments have been made to protect competitive fairness in the FPO division….” The move comes after two “emergency lawsuits” were filed by Natalie Ryan. While Ryan won both, the first in California was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The DGPT wants to limit the financial burden placed on the PDGA, DGPT, and tournament hosts that have been placed on these entities by the last-minute lawsuits. Jeff Spring, DGPT CEO and Tour Director, said, “Competitive fairness is the underpinning of the Disc Golf Pro Tour, the professional disc golf industry, and all of elite, competitive sport worldwide. 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.”

You can read the full press release here.

A rumor was going around that the FPO division would be cut for the 2024 season. The rumor started when Kat Mertsch posted on Instagram that she would not travel to Europe because of a recurring E. coli infection. She said she wanted to play the Preserve because of fears that the FPO field would be cut for the 2024 season. This was based on a leaked post from Vanessa Van Dyken, where she stated that the financial burden from the lawsuits was putting the DGPT in a financial hard spot. This would lead to the DGPT cutting the FPO field entirely from the 2024 season until this is resolved or the DGPT dissolves. Not long after that rumor started circulating publicly, Steve Dodge stated on the Nick and Matt Show that the FPO division would not be cut for the 2024 season.

This flies in the face of what Steve Dodge said until you read further into the press release. The DGPT states they will work diligently to hold the FPO events in other states during the same week. In both lawsuits, the DGPT could not present evidence of why these eligibility rules are needed to protect the FPO division. The Judges relied solely on the State’s public accommodation laws to issue the emergency injunctions. Jeff Spring also 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.”

Jeff Spring, DGPT CEO and Tour Director

The DGPT in the Jeff Spring era is still a new company. They are in the fourth season, and as a new, young, professional sport, they do not have unlimited financial resources like a PGA, NBA, NFL, or MLB. “…we have limited resources which we must use wisely in order to support an FPO division that has been publicly voicing their strong support for, and the necessity of, this policy. We are confident that the DGPT’s eligibility rules will ultimately be upheld. However, we cannot continue to endure last-minute challenges that drain the resources the DGPT needs to expand the game and grow elite competitive opportunities for our athletes.”

Natalie Ryan took to Instagram to post a statement not long after the press release was issued. “This shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was never about fairness to the cis women in FPO, but instead about a desire to remove trans women. … This is unfair to all women, and has nothing to do with ensuring fair play for cis women. … if the concern is that the cis women won’t earn as much money, the solution is not guaranteeing none of them will make any. … This decision shows pretty clearly that the DGPT as an organization doesn’t have the best interests of the sport at heart.” If you want to read the full statement, you can see the screenshot from Natalie Ryan’s Instagram below.

In a show of support, Catrina Allen and Kat Mertsch posted to their Instagram stories showing support for the DGPT’s decision. They admit this is not ideal, but they are happy that the Disc Golf Pro Tour is trying to protect the FPO division.

Catrina Allen FPO
From Catrina Allen’s Instagram Story @catrina44184
Stacie Rawnsley FPO
From Stacie Rawnsley’s Instagram Story @stacie_rawnsley

As the disc golf saga unfolds, the recent decisions by the DGPT have rippled through the FPO division, sparking intense reactions from both participants and spectators. The DGPT, grappling with lawsuits and financial constraints, has taken a decisive stance to uphold competitive fairness in the sport. However, critics challenge the motivations behind these changes, accusing the DGPT of fostering exclusion rather than equality. Yet, within this storm of controversy, the DGPT stands unwavering, their steadfast commitment to their eligibility rules steering them through these rocky waters. As fact and speculation intermingle, the DGPT persists in its mission to secure a sustainable future for the FPO division, underpinned by an unyielding belief in their cause. Nevertheless, the complexities surrounding this issue are sowing significant discord within the disc golf community, with escalating polarization mirroring the depth of the controversy. This situation starkly illuminates the trials a young sport may face and the crucial responsibility of navigating these challenges with wisdom, comprehension, and respect for all parties involved.

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