The meaningless proclamation over swimmer Lia Thomas’s recent win is nothing but fuel for the culture war.
Last week, University of Pennsylvania student Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship, earning the title of best woman swimmer at the collegiate level in the 500-yard freestyle. This week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis used his office to issue a formal declaration of crocodile tears.
On Tuesday, DeSantis signed an official proclamation rejecting the race results and instead crowning second place finisher and Florida resident Emma Weyant as the true champion.
"The NCAA's actions serve to erode opportunities for women athletes and perpetuate a fraud against women athletes as well as the public at large," the proclamation read. "Florida rejects the NCAA’s efforts to destroy women’s athletics, disapproves of the NCAA elevating ideology over biology and takes offense at the NCAA trying to make others complicit in a lie."
Weird. Conservatives are typically quick to deride our “soft” society handing out participation trophies to everyone, and now they’re doing just that — with the official seal of the governor’s office, no less.
But this move shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Conservative commentators like Clay Travis planted the seeds for it almost immediately after the race concluded. “Congrats to Virginia freshman Emma Weyant, the woman who would have won tonight’s NCAA title in the 500 meter if women’s sports were still sane,” he tweeted.
Travis, of course, is a noted respecter of women; after all, he gained fame for saying he loves boobs. He also loves women’s sports, which you can tell because he constantly insists that women athletes deserve to make less, mocks them for lower attendance, and posits that teenage boys could beat the best women in the world at their sport. A true champion of women, that guy.
DeSantis, for his part, is quick to pounce on just about anything that appears to be red meat for the culture war, so of course he dug his teeth into Thomas’s victory. It’s just a shame that Emma Weyant got dragged into this, as she seems to have no beef with Thomas.
Weyant and the other competitors have been tied into narratives they wanted no part of. After the race, several swimmers — including Weyant — who competed in the Olympics posed together while Thomas was still on the podium. The picture got twisted into a “protest,” despite the athletes themselves debunking that claim. “I was taking a picture with my closest friends from the Olympics,” third-place finisher Erica Sullivan explained.
Sullivan has defended Thomas’ right to participate, writing in Newsweek, “All athletes—including transgender athletes—deserve to be respected and included, exactly as we are.” Fourth-place finisher Brooke Forde shared similar sentiments earlier this year, stating, “I have great respect for Lia... I believe that treating people with respect and dignity is more important than any trophy or record will ever be, which is why I will not have a problem racing against Lia at NCAAs this year.”
So, to recap: The NCAA doesn’t have a problem with Thomas. Most of Thomas’s competitors don’t have a problem with Thomas. The only people who seem to are people who don’t actually care about women’s sports anyway and simply want to use these people as political props.
Between this and the GOP’s insistence that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election despite the indisputable fact that he lost in a landslide, we’re inching closer every day to an entire political party living in their own manufactured reality.