Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis issued a proclamation declaring a Sarasota native the “real” winner over Lia Thomas, a transgender athlete who recently came in first place in a NCAA Division I swimming event.
Thomas’ win, while recognized by the NCAA, has been the source of debate about whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete.
On Tuesday, DeSantis held a press conference complaining that the NCAA was “taking efforts to destroy women’s athletics.”
“They’re trying to undermine the integrity of the competition and they’re crowning somebody else the woman’s champion, and we think that’s wrong.”
Instead of recognizing Thomas as the winner of the race, the governor, who said he plans to sign the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, stated that Emma Weyant, a Florida native who swims for the University of Virginia, was the “rightful winner.”
He continued by stating that Weyant, who qualified for the 2020 Olympics and then won a silver medal in Tokyo, was the fastest swimmer “among all the women swimmers” on the day of the NCAA’s competition.
In reality, Thomas finished with a time of 4:33.24, Weyant finished in 4:34.99, and Erica Sullivan finished with a time of 4:35.92.
DeSantis continued his attack on Thomas and other transgender athletes when he shared his proclamation on Twitter along with a message to the NCAA.
“A male identifying as a woman was allowed to compete in, and was declared the winner of, the race,” DeSantis also said, according to the Miami Herald. “It is my determination that men should not be competing against women such as Emma Weyant.”
While DeSantis argued that Thomas should be stripped of her title, the college athlete has been following the NCAA’s rules since she began transitioning in 2019.
And in January 2022, the NCAA updated its transgender athlete participation policy to say that “like the Olympics, the updated NCAA policy calls for transgender participation for each sport to be determined by the policy for the national governing body of that sport.”
The policy went into effect for the 2022 winter championships.
This is not the first time DeSantis has attempted to downplay a transgender athlete’s accomplishments or keep them from competing altogether.
In 2021, he signed a bill banning transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports.
“I can tell you this, in Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports, and boys are going to play boys’ sports. That’s what we’re doing, and we’re going to make sure that that’s the reality,” he said at the time.
Reka Gyorgy, a Virginia Tech swimmer who placed 13th, also spoke out about Thomas and the NCAA’s decision to allow transgender athletes to participate.
Earlier this year, GLAAD, the LGBTQ rights group, put out a statement of support for Thomas saying that she “has complied with all policies and protocols to participate in the women’s swimming category. Her eligibility has been affirmed by the NCAA, UPenn, the Ivy League and supported by her teammates and hundreds of professional, Olympic and college women athletes.”
Lia Thomas has been following the NCAA rules for years, and she is an inspiration to other transgender athletes. It is a shame that her historic win is being overshadowed by narrow-minded people.