Lia Thomas, a transgender woman, finishes the 200 yard Freestyle for the University of Pennsylvania at an Ivy League swim meet against Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on January 22, 2022. – Thomas placed first in the event. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
OAN Geraldyn Berry
UPDATED 4:22 PM – Monday, March 27, 2023
The inclusion of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in ESPN’s Women’s History Month program has been criticized by a former national champion college swimmer, who called the network “spineless.”
Lia Thomas is not a brave, courageous woman who EARNED a national title. He is an arrogant, cheat who STOLE a national title from a hardworking, deserving woman. The @ncaa is responsible.
If I was a woman working at ESPN, I would walk out. You’re spineless @espn #boycottESPN https://t.co/DF3n5RWsmV
— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) March 26, 2023
Considered “one of the most decorated swimmers in program history,” Swimmer Riley Gaines slammed ESPN, calling the network “spineless” and tweeting the hashtag #BoycottESPN for including the transgender athlete.
“Lia Thomas has shown extreme selfishness and a major lack of awareness — and just an utter disregard for women,” Gaines said.
Gaines claimed that Thomas’ involvement in women’s collegiate swimming is a symptom of a larger social issue. Someone lacks major awareness if they “can’t acknowledge what a woman is.”
In March 2022, Gaines faced off against transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas in the NCAA finals. Thomas, who competed in the men’s division until 2019, said that she felt “like she was going into the race with her hands tied behind her back.”
Gaines has been at the vanguard of women’s sports, advocating for equal treatment and preventing transsexual people from competing at the highest level against biological females. Gaines and the former Penn swimmer tied for third place at the NCAA championships last year. Thomas’s performance in the pool sparked nationwide outrage.
The Texan-born transgender athlete had swum in men’s competitions until beginning his transition in May 2019, and made her debut in the women’s races in December 2021.
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