Stranger than fiction

Quidditch to change name over J.K. Rowling trans row

Alternatives include ‘quickball’, ‘quicker’, ‘quidstrike’ and ‘quadraball’

The name of the real-life version of the sport played on flying broomsticks in the Harry Potter series is to be changed in a bid to distance the game from J.K. Rowling.

US Quidditch (USQ) and Major League Quidditch (MLQ) said in a joint statement that the name change would help cut ties with the bestselling author, who “has increasingly come under scrutiny for her anti-trans positions in recent years”.

The governing bodies said the real-life quidditch has “developed a reputation as one of the most progressive sports in the world on gender equality and inclusivity”, in part because of a “gender maximum rule” that requires teams to have no more than four players of the same sex on the field at a time. “Both organisations feel it is imperative to live up to this reputation in all aspects of their operations and believe this move is a step in that direction,” USQ and MLQ added. 

“British governing body QuidditchUK has said it backs the name change in principle,” reported The Independent. However, the International Quidditch Association (IQA) said it had “no plans” to change the name “at this time”.

In a statement on Saturday, the global government body added that the IQA “has no tolerance for transphobia or bigotry of any kind” and that its members “explicitly disavow” Rowling’s comments against the transgender community.

Co-adapter ‘thrilled’

Quidditch was first played as a real-life sport at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005, before spreading to colleges and universities worldwide including Cambridge and Bristol. 

Alex Benepe, who jointly co-adapted the game from the fantasy series for Middlebury College, said he was “thrilled” that USQ and MLQ were exploring other name options. “I've been a strong advocate for making this move for a long time,” he added. 

The process to select a new name for the sport has begun and the leagues will be surveying players over the next few months to help make the decision. According to The Times, the options include “quickball, quicker, quidstrike and quadraball”.

Distancing of film cast

Rowling has repeatedly come under fire over the past couple of years for expressing views, often on Twitter, that her critics have described as transphobic. In June 2020, the author published an open letter on her website explaining why she felt “worried about the new trans activism” and expressing “deep concerns” about the effect of the trans rights movement on education and safeguarding.

Since the publication of the letter, core cast members from the Harry Potter films including Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Evanna Lynch and Katie Leung have publicly distanced themselves from Rowling. Daniel Radcliffe, who starred as Harry, issued a statement saying that “we need to do more to support transgender people and non-binary people, not invalidate their identities and cause further harm”.

The Daily Mail reported last month that “cast and crew of the Harry Potter movies are coming together for a reunion, with one notable exception”. Rowling was not invited to take part HBO’s upcoming special Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, premiering on New Year’s Day, and instead “will be shown in archival footage about the movies”, said Variety

“Rowling has become a figure of instant, and seemingly permanent, controversy in the passionate and vast Harry Potter fandom,” the showbusiness-focused newspaper added. 

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