A University of Kentucky swimmer and one of 2022’s NCAA Woman of the Year nominees, joined tennis legend Martina Navratilova and others in speaking out after transgender swimmer Lia Thomas was put up for the prestigious award.
UPenn has named Thomas, 22, as one of two students nominated for the National College Athletics’ Association’s Woman of the Year Award.
‘[T]his is yet another slap in the face to women. First a female national title and now nominated for the pinnacle award in collegiate athletics. The NCAA has made this award worthless,’ Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines tweeted in response.
Gaines and Thomas famously tied for fifth place in the women’s 200-meter NCAA championships in March, but as there was only one trophy, Gaines was told by the event’s organizers that the trophy would be given to Thomas, while hers would be mailed at a later time.
Gaines wasn’t the only female athlete to tweet her outrage.
Navratilova, who has won the most major titles in women’s tennis in the Open Era, also took to Twitter to deride the nomination.
‘Not enough fabulous biological women athletes, NCAA?!? What is wrong with you?!!!!!!!?’ she tweeted.
Other athletes and commentators also chimed in.
Former NCAA champion swimmer Marshi Smith wrote: ‘How many women’s awards are we willing to surrender? The Ivy League choosing a male as their nominee is doubling down on their anti-woman campaign.’
Smith suggested Gaines, a swimmer at the University of Kentucky who competed against Thomas, should win the award.
Physics teacher Debbie Hayton, who is herself transgender, was similarly critical: ‘I urge Thomas to do what is right and respectfully decline the nomination, and possibly generate some respect.’
Commentators away from the world of sports also weighed in, with podcast host Allie Beth Stuckey writing: ‘NCAA dubs ‘Lia’ Thomas ‘woman’ of the year. You have the laugh at the audacity of our current dystopia. Rest assured that the harder they push this stuff, the harder the pendulum will swing back. And it will swing back—sooner than you think.’
The University of Pennsylvania’s other nominee is Russian tennis player Luliia Bryzgalova.
Each school is allowed two nominations as long as one of the athletes is an international student or a person of color and both must be graduating. The winner will be announced at an NCAA event in San Antonio, Texas, in January 2023.
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