Toronto Six president and head coach Digit Murphy is no longer associated with the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, which has come under scrutiny for its policies regarding transgender women in sports.
The WSPWG, which is made up of prominent former female athletes and sports administrators, is proposing to change the way transgender girls and women compete in women’s sports. According to their mission statement, they “reject both the effort to exclude trans girls and trans women from girls’ and women’s sport and the effort to disadvantage biological females by forcing them to compete against athletes with male sex-linked physical advantages.”
That proposal has drawn sharp criticism from transgender and women’s equality activists, who say the group’s views are transphobic and damaging to the fight for transgender rights.
Last month, Murphy came under criticism when it was revealed that she was listed as a supporter of the WSPWG on the organization’s website.
Murphy, who led the Six to a top seed in its first season as an expansion franchise in the NWHL, tells Sportsnet that she has since cut ties with the group and that the Toronto hockey club is looking for ways to engage with the trans community following the fallout.
She added that the Six have had some panels with trans inclusive organizations and she expects the team to have “promotion nights” with inclusive organizations.
“Me, my team, my staff, we had to do a deep dive of what it really means to be inclusive,” Murphy said in her first public comments since her involvement with the group became public last month.
“We did some training, we did some stuff with Athlete Ally, and you know, it really opened my eyes about sport and trans people, and how sport plays a role and what a huge problem it is from the standpoint of like kids not being allowed to play sports, and not being able to get health care. Discussing the whole issue and how we’re handling it as a society opened my eyes.”
The NWHL has a testosterone-based trans policy, which has also come under scrutiny in recent weeks. When reached for comment, the NWHL responded with the following statement:
“The NWHL is committed to creating safe and inclusive spaces while maintaining competitive equity in professional women’s hockey.
We are also committed to education and evolution.
All league policies and bylaws are subject to review and modification in accordance with the rapidly changing world we live in. Our policy regarding the participation of Transgender Athletes will be reviewed ahead of the 2021-22 season.”
The first openly trans player in the league, Harrison Browne, said in an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week he would still be playing if not for that policy.
“I thought she was more of an advocate for inclusion and empowerment and her involvement in that organization seems to be the entire opposite of that,” said a former Six employee, who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retribution. “My heart is crushed thinking about all of our fans of the LGBT community who feel betrayed and hurt right now because of her actions and I would hope that Digit would be at least able to apologize.”
After Murphy’s involvement with the WSPWG became public, former CWHL player Jessica Platt — the first openly trans professional women’s hockey player with the Toronto Furies — tweeted about her experience with the Six.
One of her tweets read: “I got some info, we had what I thought was a great chat and was told my info would be passed along to the head coach. I heard nothing. Seeing this now all I can think is this is why I didn’t get a call.”
When reached for comment, Platt said: “I had talked to someone who mentioned that they had heard that most PWHPA players from Toronto had been contacted by the Six and I hadn’t. So I can’t help think of that possibility that I wasn’t a choice to begin with for one reason or another.”
Former Toronto Six general manager Mandy Cronin confirmed the conversation.
“It was a great conversation,” said Cronin. “I had also recruited her the previous season when I was the Buffalo Beauts GM, so our line of communication was already open. I passed her information along to Digit, as I did with all of the players that I recruited. Digit wanted full control of all signings. At that time, she did not seem interested in Jessica, but did not get into details of why.”
Murphy disputes Cronin’s version of events, claiming she explained to Cronin why the team couldn’t take Platt on at that time and instructed her to reach out to Platt and thank her for her interest.
Murphy said she’s since reached out to Platt, which Platt confirmed, but the two have yet to speak.
The league and teams said they’d be reviewing their policy, but what that means remains to be seen. For now, Murphy stays in her role with the Six and the league is proceeding as if the matter is closed. Murphy won’t be facing any discipline for her previous involvement with the group.