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Former NCAA champion swimmer Riley Gaines responded on Thursday to a hit piece accusing her of using her 5th-place tie with trans-identifying swimmer Lia Thomas to launch a career in right-wing media.
The piece was written by Alyssa Tirrell at left-wing outlet Media Matters for America, and argued that Gaines had traded a fifth place finish in the 200-meter freestyle at the 2022 NCAA championships — where she tied with Thomas — for a platform in conservative media.
MMfA’s Ari Drennen shared the article along with the comment, “Riley Gaines has turned a fifth-place tie with Lia Thomas into a lucrative career in the right wing media.” The headline echoed the same claim: “Over a year after her last race against Lia Thomas, Riley Gaines has built a media career on the trans swimmer’s name.”
Riley Gaines has turned a fifth-place tie with Lia Thomas into a lucrative career in the right wing mediahttps://t.co/5oSAXmHGua
— Ari Drennen (@AriDrennen) June 21, 2023
In the article that followed, however, Tirrell appeared to be suggesting that 29 appearances — totaling two hours and 38 minutes of air time — amounted to a “media career.”
The piece went on to complain that instead of talking solely about her race against Thomas, Gaines was being asked to comment on broader issues — such as the athletic advantages biological males have over females when it comes to sports and the trauma that could result from allowing men into locker rooms with biological females and, particularly, young girls.
But as Gaines told The Daily Wire on Thursday, despite the fact that she does not intend to make media a career, critics like MMfA are just going to have to get used to seeing her around.
“I finished fifth in the entire country. Is the fifth best NBA player considered elite? Of course. The critics to this have never been an elite athlete or placed fifth in the country in any of their endeavors, so I don’t expect them to know what that actually means,” Gaines began. “But that doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t matter if I won an Olympic gold medal or was the slowest swimmer in the country. How competitive you are doesn’t change your worthiness of equal opportunity, safety, and privacy. Every single young girl and woman is entitled to their rights to those things regardless of how ‘good’ or ‘fast’ they are.”
“I’m not fighting this for personal reasons. This is never a battle I wanted or felt equipped for,” Gaines continued. “And I’m done competing. I’m not doing this for myself. I’m fighting this for the past female athletes who fought relentlessly for Title IX so I could benefit in the way I did. I’m fighting this for the present female athletes who have their voices effectively silenced by their universities and the media. I’m fighting this for the next generation of female athletes who don’t yet have a voice and don’t yet understand the implications of what this means for their opportunities.”
Gaines went on to say that she’d be only too happy to return to her original plan for her life — to go to dental school and eventually become an endodontist.
“I don’t see that happening anytime soon. So I’m sorry, but my critics are going to be stuck seeing my face and hearing my voice,” she said. “This is a battle I won’t give up on because I see what’s at stake if we do. Make no mistake, this is bigger than just fairness in women’s sports. They want to control how you feel, what you think, and what you say. Not on my watch.”