Former MSNBC and ESPN commentator Keith Olbermann ignited a war with three-time SEC champion swimmer Riley Gaines after claiming that she lost to transgender swimmer Lia Thomas because “she sucks at swimming.”
Gaines responded to the comments with a short video showing off her impressive trophy case that includes an All-SEC first-team, three SEC titles, a second-place finish nationally, an SEC community service award, and an SEC female scholar-athlete of the year award.
This is why we fight so hard to keep men out of women's sports…
— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) September 1, 2023
Gaines has risen to prominence after arguing that Thomas should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports. In August, Gaines started the Riley Gaines Center at the Leadership Institute which aims to train and empower women while safeguarding women’s sports from transgender participation.
“The left has used all its power to destroy the distinctions between women and men — eliminating opportunities for women, and silencing those who dare to speak the truth,” the website for the center reads.
Paula Scanlon, a former teammate of Thomas’, spoke up for Gaines and told her own story of what it was like to compete with a transgender athlete.
Scanlan said that changing in front of Thomas while competing at Penn caused her to relieve a previous sexual assault. She also said that Olbermann’s views on transgender participation in women’s sports are harmful to women.
Liberal progressives have pushed for several years for transgender inclusion in sports over the objection of conservatives and women’s rights organizations. In 2021, the Biden Administration used an executive order to force changes to Title IX, the landmark law that ensures equal treatment for women in education. The administration demanded that the Department of Education rewrite the rules to bar states from banning transgender students.
A total of 21 states have so far instituted laws that prevent transgender people from participating in women’s sports or joining female teams. A 2023 Gallup poll shows that Americans oppose efforts to include transgender athletes in non-birth-gender sports overwhelmingly. The poll showed that not only do more Americans oppose the liberal policy, but that opposition has increased since the poll was first done in 2021.
The issues between Thomas and Gaines started when the two swimmers tied for fifth place in the NCAA Championships 200-meter. Event officials informed Gaines that they only had one fifth-place trophy and they “had” to give it to Thomas.
Gaines was one of the first athletes to speak out against transgender inclusion in women’s sports and has said that she believes a majority of female athletes -and women in general- disagree with the Biden administration and liberal policy of including transgender athletes in female sports.