ESPN Analysts, Gaines, and Navratilova Blast Lia Thomas’s Claim that Feminism Is ‘Transphobia’
She was ranked second in the world in women’s road running, but today? “I would be a complete nobody,” the U.K.’s Mara Yamauchi told Dana Perino. Like a lot of the sports world, she watched in disgust as Glenique Frank, a biological man, ran the London Marathon in the women’s category, beating out 14,000 actual females in his sports bra and rainbow gear last weekend. “It’s absolutely unfair,” two-time Olympian Yamauchi argued. Pretty soon, she lamented, we won’t have real women in sports at all. And Lia Thomas’s Democratic apologists seem just fine with that.
Frank, who competed in the men’s category of the Tokyo Marathon as “Glen” last month, has no business competing against women. “Males run on average 10% faster than females,” Yamauchi explained, “and [that’s] at the lower end of the male-female performance gap.” When she was running at the top of her game in 2009, the Olympian says she was second in the world as a woman, but “in that year alone … at least 1,300 men ran faster than me. So if we didn’t have the female category on it, for females only, I would be a complete nobody. Everybody would be a complete nobody.”
For his part, Frank insists, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” “If they want me to give my medal back,” he told the New York Post, “I’ll say, ‘Okay, fine. No problem. … But I don’t want to apologize.” The 54-year-old, who plans on having gender transition surgery next year, said, “I get it. … I’m not a woman, I don’t have a womb. But I didn’t compete as an elite, so I didn’t steal any money.”
To women like Riley Gaines, who’ve been fighting tooth and nail to give girls a fighting chance in sports, it’s not about the money. It’s about safety and fairness. When she swam against Lia Thomas in the NCAA championships, watching the 6’1” male traipse around the girls’ dressing room with his genitalia hanging out, it was also about privacy. Now, less than a year later, the man formerly known as William is complaining that it isn’t transgender-identifying athletes who are the problem — it’s the legitimate women they’re pretending to be.
On a recent podcast, a pink-haired Thomas claimed that advocates like Gaines are using “the guise of feminism to … push transphobic beliefs.” “They’re like, ‘Oh, we respect Lia, as a woman, as a trans woman — or whatever. We respect her identity, we just don’t think it’s fair.” According to the University of Pennsylvania swimmer, “You can’t really have that sort of half-support, where you’re like, ‘Oh, I respect her as a woman here, but not here.’”
Grand Slam tennis champ Martina Navratilova was incensed by the interview, posting, “NEWSFLASH Lia — it’s not fair. We shouldn’t have to explain it to you over and over. Also — stop explaining feminism to feminists.”
And yet, for all of the attention and concessions he’s gotten, Thomas isn’t satisfied. He’s also taking aim at the most trans-friendly administration in history, blasting the president for proposing a Title IX policy that, ironically, will make it easier for other boys to steal girls’ victories. “…[I]t breaks my heart to see trans kids across the country lose out on these opportunities,” he said. “The department of Education [rule] … would prohibit blanket bans on transgender kids, especially in grades K through eight, however, it would not prohibit discrimination against trans kids in high school and college levels under the guise of competitive fairness. … it is not enough during this time of intense anti-trans backlash. The trans community needs explicit protections from discrimination in order to live our lives freely and equally.”
Gaines couldn’t believe her ears. “‘Under the guise of competitive fairness?’ Are you really trying to say you would have won a national title against the men? This take is selfish,” she argued.
And lethal. Earlier this month, Payton McNabb, a senior volleyball player in North Carolina, opened up about the injuries she’s still dealing with after having a ball spiked in her face by a biological male playing against her girls’ team. “I suffered a concussion and neck injury that to this day I’m still recovering from,” she said. On top of that, she explained she’s had troubles with her vision and partial paralysis on one side of her body.
The anxiety and depression she’s felt has been overwhelming at times. But a determined McNabb said, “I am here for every biological female behind me. My little sister, my cousins, my teammates. Allowing biological males to compete against biological females is dangerous. I may be the first to come before you … but I won’t be the last.”
Stories like McNabb’s are catching the attention of other high-profile names in sports too. At least three ESPN analysts have come out in support of women’s sports, breaking with the Disney-owned company’s woke take. Charly Arnolt, who left the network, said that “as a woman … [it] was huge slap in the face” that her former employer chose to celebrate Thomas during Women’s History Month. But then, she pointed out, ESPN isn’t a place where conservative opinions are welcome. “There’s a lot of issues that I felt like I needed and wanted to speak up on my opinion. [But] I wasn’t in a place where it was allowed, where I was comfortable even speaking out … because it didn’t fit within the narrative of … ESPN.”
The network’s Samantha Ponder and Sage Steele are taking the risk anyway, using their platforms at ESPN to sound the alarm on girls’ sports. Ponder, who’s a mainstay of the channel’s NFL coverage, tweeted that Biden’s sweeping DOE rule “would take away so many opportunities for biological women and girls in sports. It is a shame that we [need] to fight for the integrity of Title IX in 2023 and the reason it was needed in the first place.”
Using the hashtag #IStandWithRileyGaines, Steele, a “SportsCenter” anchor who’s suing the network for violating her free speech, has exercised plenty of it on her Twitter account. When Gaines was attacked at San Francisco State University, she asked, “Are there any other women with public platforms willing to stand up for @Riley_Gaines and the millions of female athletes?? Or do we only stand up for those who fit certain narratives?? LADIES, WHERE ARE YOU? Media… Hollywood… hello?!?! We MUST come together on this!!”
“This is heartbreaking, maddening, and really difficult to watch,” she said of Thomas’s video. “I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and be relieved that this was all just a ridiculous, comical, nonsensical dream …”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.