RILEY GAINES: The Anniversary Of Injustice In Women’s Sports

(Independent Women's Forum)

Riley Gaines Contributor
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It’s been one full year since the NCAA allowed Lia Thomas to swim at the Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving National Championships after competing on the men’s team at the same university for the three years prior. One full year since Lia Thomas became the first male to win a DI national title, beating out many female Olympians and American record holders in the process. One full year since female athletes lost the ability to consent to undress alongside males exposing their male genitalia. One full year since Thomas and I tied in the 200 freestyle, but Thomas got the trophy as it was necessary for “photo purposes.” One full year of sending letter after letter and email after email to the members of the governing bodies within the NCAA — which have still not received a response. One full year of female athletes messaging me privately to share their own eerily similar experiences that they don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly for fear of retaliation, losing playing time, or being labeled “transphobic.” One full year of parents reaching out to me to share how heartbreaking it is for them to have to watch from afar as their daughters are sidelined so a male could be in the spotlight that their children rightfully earned.

While it’s been a year since the NCAA Championships that we, as female athletes, faced this blatant discrimination, it’s not even been a month since the former NCAA president stepped down and a new one has been appointed. The new president is former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

I was excited to hear of his acceptance of this position because Mr. Baker has a reputation for fairness and for considering all viewpoints. He was an accomplished student-athlete at Harvard. He has a daughter who is about my age who played sports growing up. Because of all this, I imagined that he would be adamant about prioritizing fairness and the integrity of sports rather than creating guidelines that limit opportunities for females under the guise of promoting “inclusion.”

To be certain Mr. Baker understood the severity of what the female DI swimmers dealt with at our NCAA Championships, I wrote a letter to him in January before he assumed his new role. I explained the general consensus of how the female athletes felt disregarded and betrayed by the unfair competition and lack of privacy and vulnerability in our locker rooms where male genitalia was on full display. I explained how athletes, coaches, administrators, and parents were silenced amidst the controversy. I explained why it’s crucial to understand the scientific evidence that shows the impossibility of leveling the collegiate playing field through hormone therapy. I asked for an opportunity to meet face-to-face to better explain my (and so many others’) perspective and to work together to create a solution that would provide everyone a place where they can play fairly and safely.

Three months have passed since I sent this letter. Unfortunately, as with former NCAA President Mark Emmert, I’ve yet to receive a reply.

But there’s still time and we female athletes need a response. It’s time the people at the top listen to the growing voices of female athletes who are directly impacted by this madness of men in women’s sports. It’s time the governing bodies work to make changes that ensure fairness, safety, and privacy for the very athletes that Title IX was created to protect. I’m still hopeful for a meeting with Mr. Baker to share my perspective on what’s at stake by not having sex-protected categories and spaces in collegiate athletics.

The situation we swimmers were met with is becoming less unique. The number of collegiate female athletes who have been hurt, traumatized, or excluded by these policies is growing at an alarming rate. It’s time we band together in hopes of making permanent changes that would protect all girls and women. More and more people are realizing the threat to women’s sports. I feel the tides are beginning to turn, and people are realizing how allowing males to claim they are women and enter into our once sex-protected category is harmful. Mr. Baker’s support would be invaluable to bringing the issue to the public’s attention.

We need bold voices who are willing to stand firm in the truth and, quite frankly, common sense. It’s crucial that we keep working relentlessly to save women’s sports. The future of college athletics depends on it. Mr. Baker has a chance to be one of those voices and, as I wrote months ago, become the savior of women’s sports.

Riley Gaines is a spokeswoman for Independent Women’s Forum and a recent graduate from the University of Kentucky, where she was a 12x All-American swimmer.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.