This idea has been rolling around in my mind for a while now and I figured I better write it down before it disappears into the chasms of my mind. The American mind spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about sports much to the detriment of much more important topics that are far more pertinent to our lives. That said, professional sports have also been a positive impetus for social change. Jackie Robinson is a great example of this. Michael Sam, though he’s not on an NFL team yet, has also brought the echoes of change that will likely lead to the avalanche of openly gay men playing professional football.
I have many issues with professional sports, but the one that has always made no sense to me was that they were divided by gender. I have no issues with the fact that there is a men’s league and a women’s league, but I do have issue with the fact that that is all we have. The States are abound with coed recreational leagues so why not professional? But to me, that doesn’t go far enough because it perpetuates the belief that gender is binary. What I would like to see is the GNBA: the Gender Neutral Basketball Association.
The rules of the GNBA will follow most of the rules of any professional basketball association with one main difference: everybody is eligible. Of course, that’s not enough as it would likely just turn into another men’s league so there will be two other rules. First, the team that is on the court has to be gender neutral + 1. Second, no individual player can be responsible for over 25% of the scored points.
Gender neutral + 1 probably needs a bit of an explanation. There are five people on the basketball court at any given time. Having one self-identifying male and one self-identifying female on the court makes the team gender neutral. The +1 gives some wiggle room since it is a five person team. So you can have 3 women and 2 men on the court or 2 trans women and 3 trans men or 1 man and 1 woman and 1 trans man and 1 trans woman and 1 bigender individual, etc. Importantly, each individual would be self-identifying with no questions asked. Also, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of identities or combinations. Gender identity is vast and complicated and I only have an 8th grade education in it.
No individual player being responsible for more than 25% of the points is an effort to curb the superstar effect that basketball seems to have. It is there to emphasize team play over individual ego. If an individual has over 25% of the points at the end of the game, points will be deducted from that individual’s total until they have 25% or fewer points. This is a rule that I wish the NBA currently had.
Why did I choose basketball? Practicality, mostly. Both soccer and baseball would be well suited to a league of this nature too and I like both sports better, but they both require much larger spaces and more players. Basketball courts are ubiquitous, scale well to attendance levels, and require less person-power.
The biggest obstacle to gender awareness right now is visibility. We are brought up with a binary view of gender since birth. This can cause huge emotional damage in those who do not fit that socially enforced binary. Creating an all-inclusive basketball league will certainly not solve all our gender problems, but it’s a way to bring positive visibility to a portion of the population that remains too invisible to society.