The bill co-sponsored by NC state Rep. Mike Clampitt, Republican of Transylvania, Jackson, and Swain Counties) calls for possible felony charges against "male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest."

Thank god Tim Moffitt and Mike Clampitt are on the job, protecting our children from the true dangers of the day — participation trophies and drag queens.

Or trying to, at least.

In case you missed it, in late March State Sen. Moffitt, Republican of Henderson County, filed a bill with two co-sponsors titled, “An act to prohibit awards in youth recreation activities of local governments based solely on participation.”

Then, a couple of days ago, a group of Republicans in the House of Representatives, including Clampitt, who represents Jackson, Swain and Transylvania counties, introduced House Bill 673, an act to clarify the regulations on adult live entertainment. It seeks to make criminals out of “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration,” meaning it would apply to both paid and free performances.

Sure, both of these bills may seem silly and half-baked to you, but these fine gents are just trying to protect our children from what they view as very damaging behavior.

Personally, you know what I view as very damaging to children?

Bullets. Especially those fired from high-power AR-15 rifles.

Maybe one day Moffitt and Clampitt will find the courage to address that problem with some proposals that actually have teeth, make sense and could stop these senseless murders.

Firearms Are No. 1 Cause of Death for Ages 1 to 19

Before you accuse me of hyperbole, consider this article from Kaiser Family Foundation: “Firearms are now the number one cause of death for children in the United States, but rank no higher than fifth in 11 other large and wealthy countries, a new KFF analysis finds.”

Here are the actual numbers: “Guns — including accidental deaths, suicides, and homicides — killed 4,357 children (ages 1 to 19 years old) in the United States in 2020, or roughly 5.6 per 100,000 children,” KFF noted.

Gun legislation doesn’t play well with the conservative base, so forget about attempting any meaningful legislation to keep kids alive. But by all means let’s keep them from experiencing the horrors of receiving a plastic soccer player on a fake marble platform, or seeing a man dressed as a woman in public.

Let’s be clear here: What these bills really are about is playing to the base.

State Sen. Timothy Moffitt (Republican of Henderson County)

“I doubt Tim Moffit believes this will become law,” Chris Cooper, a political scientist at Western Carolina University, said regarding the trophy bill. “I think they are trying to make a point, and a point that will resonate with their base. If we take it as a serious piece of public policy, they can’t ban participation trophies — they can only ban government-provided participation trophies.”

I reached out to Moffitt but didn’t hear back by deadline.

Moffitt’s bill is pretty short and sweet: “Youth sports or other youth recreation activities operated under the authority of a local government shall not include awards for participants based solely on their participation in the sport or other activity. Awards provided in connection with the activity, if any, shall be based on identified performance achievements.”

It’s also just real goofy. Seriously, do our elected officials have nothing better to do in Raleigh than interfere in youth sports?

Right upfront let’s just say the participation trophy bill likely will go nowhere, and the drag queen idiocy is likely to be challenged in court on free speech grounds, if it actually makes it into law. 

Silly and Overdone

On the trophy front, does anyone really assume kids don’t understand that they’re getting a trophy for participation and not for being the best daggum tee ball player in the land? Sure, the whole participation trophy thing is a little silly and overdone, but so is assuming it’s damaging human beings’ ability to be competitive or deal with adversity as adults.

In a Feb. 27 article in Psychology Today titled, “The Power of Participation Trophies,” Dr. Candida Fink, a board-certified child psychiatrist, noted first that participation trophies “actually appeared in children’s sports about a century ago; in other words, they aren’t a new phenomenon.”

“They have been used for decades to encourage and reward children for participating in fun and healthy activities, like sports,” Fink writes. “They recognize effort, which children can modulate, rather than intrinsic ability and outcomes, which are dependent on many things that children cannot control.”

Received participation trophy as a child, and now feels entitled to introduce silly bills in the North Carolina General Assembly.

Fink points out that, “Plenty of people with and without any actual expertise have weighed in with extreme confidence in this belief that participation trophies ruin kids’ competitive spirit and make children too lazy and/or too entitled to work hard to get things they want. The thinking often goes: ‘Every kid will think they are a winner, so they will always feel entitled to winning, even if they don’t deserve to win.’”

It’s a ridiculous notion, she argues, in part because kids are not fooled into thinking a participation trophy signifies winning. 

“Kids are way smarter than that, and way more aware of their social surroundings,” Fink writes. “Kids know when other kids have more skill on a court or a ball field. A participation trophy just says it was awesome for you to be here having fun. It doesn’t say everyone wins first place.”

The trophies just might encourage kids to keep trying new things, though, and that’s good for everyone. As they get older, kids’ interests change, sports get more serious and a lot of young athletes change direction.

They’ll find out soon enough how competitive the world is. Ask any high school kid who’s applied to college if they think the world is competitive.

I also think adults’ brains tend to cloud over with nostalgia when they’re thinking about their own youths and their athletic achievements.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, we had organized sports but certainly not to the scale or level of competition you see today. I didn’t know of anyone on a “travel team.”

I swam on a summer league team that started in late May and wrapped up by the end of July, when everyone went to the beach for a week, if they were lucky, or, if you were a member of the Boyle family, sat at home in the sweltering summer heat, swatting Junebugs with tennis racquets in the front yard, or collecting Coke bottles at construction sites for candy money.

Side note: Youngsters, glass soda bottles used to come with something called “a deposit,” meaning it could be reused. So if you took one to the store, you could get a nickel, dime or even a quarter (only for the honking 32-ounce Coke bottles), to blow on Sugar Babies and Slurpees.

Silly and Shrewd

But back to trophies. Back then, at the end of the swim season, we had an awards banquet, where every kid got a not-so-coveted certificate of participation and two members of each age group got a “Most Outstanding” award.

To me, the certificates are today’s trophies. Sure, it’s a little nicer, but teams can still recognize outstanding players with different awards.

By about middle school, athletics have a way of weeding out the not-so-talented participants. I mean, do we really have to tell 6-year-olds they suck at baseball?

Look, only a small percentage of kids is going to make a high school team, and even fewer go on to play in college, with a miniscule percentage of those making the pros. Real life is hard, and kids get that sooner than we imagine.

I can’t imagine some 7-year-old who got a trophy for daydreaming about dinosaurs in right field while a ground ball skittered past his feet is automatically going to turn out to be a whiny, entitled adult because some dad/coach handed him a participation trophy. I think we all figure out soon enough that life is very competitive, and you’ve got to work hard to get ahead — and having some natural talent really helps.

While all of this is a bit silly, it is also kind of shrewd. Hey, we’re talking about it, aren’t we?

Moffitt is particularly crafty in this regard, and he’s been a pretty effective legislator. He’s sponsoring another bill that would lift the city of Asheville’s restrictions on Airbnb rentals, and, as Cooper pointed out, Moffitt also has made a name for himself by pushing for deregulation of the state’s ABC system. 

These are serious bills, Cooper said, and could pass.

“And then there’s this bill,” Cooper said of the trophy legislation. 

The ABC changes would represent “good libertarian policy — less governmental interference,” as Cooper said. 

The trophy bill? Well, that’s more governmental interference. Just one more reason to toss the bill on the scrap heap of silly bills that never make it through the legislature.

The drag queen bill also seems like overreach to me, a way for Clampitt and friends to play to the base’s gender fatigue. These LGBTQ and gender identification issues get a lot of attention, and my theory is the Republicans know it’s an easy way to fire up conservatives who’ve grown weary of the conversation or have some deep-seated fears that the world is spinning out of control around them.

The bill co-sponsored by NC state Rep. Mike Clampitt, (on left) Republican of Transylvania, Jackson, and Swain Counties, calls for possible felony charges against “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest.” The bill does not define “prurient interest.” Shown at right is Barry Humphries, appearing as Dame Edna Everage. Humphries died last week at age 89.

On the gender issue in sports, I think the Republicans do have a real issue. Certainly, males who transition to female status can retain muscular, skeletal and lung capacity advantages, as we saw by the collegiate swimmer who went from a non-competitor as a male to a top-ranked competitor as a female.

The Associated Press reported April 19 that, “Transgender girls in North Carolina would be prohibited from joining female sports teams in middle school, high school and college under legislation passed Wednesday by the Republican-controlled House in one of its first actions since attaining a supermajority earlier this month.”

The Senate has a similar bill speeding through the chamber.

Lump all these bills together, and it’s clear to me that the Republicans have identified at least one issue that gets the base fired up. 

Meanwhile, stay tuned for the next school shooting coming soon to a community near you. 

Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. John Boyle has been covering Asheville and surrounding communities since the 20th century. You can reach him at (828) 337-0941, or via email at

6 replies on “Opinion: Pandering politicians, drag queens, and participation trophies”

  1. Tim Moffitt is the epitome of the candidate for junior high student council who lost after the other kids laughed at him in gym class when he could not do a single pushup. And he didn’t get a participation ribbon either.

  2. Makes one wonder, who’s next? These people have such a long list of others to hate; they seem to resent three quarters of all Americans plus some of our dogs and most of our cats. How can they keep coming up with new targets?

  3. Dear Mr. Moffitt,

    Thank you for taking your eye off the ball, instead of improving your infrastructure and workforce to better compete with my country in the future, you have decided instead to focus your time, energy and money on “social issues”. Please be aware that we in China will continue to invest in making our people and our economy more competitive; thank you for helping us accomplish that.

    President Xi

  4. Very well written. Thanks! I have recently contacted Congressman Chuck Edwards as to banning assault weapons across the board.

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