Riley Gaines Hand-Delivers Giant Petition to NCAA Reps – Keep Women’s Sports for Women – 70K Signatures

Riley Gaines Hand-Delivers Giant Petition to NCAA Reps – Keep Women’s Sports for Women – 70K Signatures

Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines and several other college athletes, past and present, delivered a petition to the NCAA at its annual convention in Phoenix on Thursday calling for women’s sports to remain for women.

The petition was signed by more than 70,000 people.

Gaines told NCAA representatives in front of the Phoenix Convention Center that among the signatories on the petition are tennis legend Martina Navratilova and more than 500 Olympians, including two-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Donna de Varona.

Gaines and more than a dozen other female athletes, coaches and parents of athletes spoke at a “We Won’t Back Down” rally a few blocks away from the convention center and then marched over to deliver their petition and a demand letter to NCAA officials.

They chanted “Our bodies, our sports” and “Save women’s sports” during their march.

In addition to the petition, Gaines handed NCAA representatives a letter of demands.

“We write on behalf of a coalition of women’s organizations to demand that the NCAA meet with female athletes adversely affected by its discriminatory practice of allowing male athletes on women’s teams,” the letter began.

“Without single-sex competition there can be no equal athletic opportunity,” it continued. “The NCAA knows this, yet it continues to propagate a policy that allows male athletes on women’s teams, even as international sports governing bodies and state legislatures increasingly reject these unjust and inequitable policies that harm female athletes.”

The letter puts forth three demands of the NCAA:

“Repeal all policies and rules that allow male athletes to take roster spots on women’s teams and/or compete in women’s events.

“Establish and enforce the right of female athletes to participate in sports based on sex.

“Require its member institutions to provide single-sex locker rooms for female athletes.”

Some of the signatories are the leaders of Independent Women’s Forum, the Independent Council of Women’s Sports, Concerned Women for America, Women’s Liberation Front and the International Consortium on Female Sports.

Gaines, an Independent Women’s Forum ambassador, made headlines during the 2022 NCAA swimming championships after she tied Lia Thomas, a man who claims to be a woman.

The two finished in fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle, but the NCAA gave the trophy to Thomas, a senior who had previously competed on the University of Pennsylvania men’s team.

Gaines was given a sixth-place trophy to hold to make it appear both were receiving awards that day.

Thomas won first place in the 500-yard freestyle.

During the rally Thursday, Gaines held up a shirt that she said was being passed out during the 2022 swimming championships. It read “50 Years of Title IX — Creating Opportunities.”

Riley Gaines holds a T-shirt at the "We Won't Back Down" rally in Phoenix on Thursday.
Riley Gaines holds a T-shirt at the “We Won’t Back Down” rally in Phoenix on Thursday. (Independent Women’s Forum)

Title IX was the civil rights law passed in 1972 that guaranteed equal opportunities for women in education and school sports programs.

Gaines couldn’t help noting the irony that at the same time the NCAA was touting opportunities for women, it was allowing men to take some of them away.

She told The Western Journal before the rally, “We have come too far to be erased now.”


“The strides we have made over the past 50 years, 51 years … we’re seeing, in the name of progress, we’re seeing that being dismantled,” she continued.

“So we’re here to say, as women, that we will not continue to be ignored and that we won’t accept being discriminated against on the basis of our sex,” Gaines said.

Asked what she attributed to her becoming the point person on the issue nationally of keeping women’s sports for women, she said, “I think people are hungry for the truth. … We’ve just had people in those powerful leadership positions who aren’t willing to say the truth. … And that truth is that men and women are different. We’re not the same.”

Gaines pointed out that almost 70 percent of Americans believe men claiming to be women should be kept out of women’s sports.

Other speakers at the rally noted that allowing men into women’s sports robs women of scholarship opportunities and often the chance to win first place.

Madisan DeBos, a Division I cross-country and track runner at Southern Utah University, spoke of how disheartening it was to compete against a man knowing his personal best time was so much faster than hers.

Linda Blade — a former track and field All-American in the heptathlon and co-founder of the International Consortium on Female Sports — told The Western Journal an assignment she had in Iran in the 1990s illustrated to her just how important Title IX is.

World Athletics sent her to Tehran, knowing that she and her husband had already worked in an Islamic country in Africa.

Blade was assigned the task of teaching women in Iran how to coach girls.

“And so I had to, of course, put on the veil and just do all things, but inside the field house we could take the hijab off,” she said.

“But I would just be walking down the street and people would just come up to me and say, ‘Well, I know you’re from the USA or from North America,'” Blade recounted.

She would respond, “Why? I’m covered? You can’t see me. Like, how do you know?”

“Oh, you walk with confidence,” was the reply.

“And that tells you everything you need to know about what this does for women and girls. What sport does” in America, Blade said.

“Sports give you that confidence to start your own business and … be optimistic about life and be empowered,” she said.

“I look at women in other countries, they just don’t have the same confidence as American women. They just don’t.”

“And people don’t understand how special it is. And if we do not stand up for it, we’re going to lose something socioeconomically,” Blade said.

“Why would we give that away?” she said.

Blade argued if you allow men in women’s sports, it sends the message that the competition will not be fair, which is the opposite of empowering.

Never in the history of the world has a country done so much for women, she argued, referring to Title IX.

“We’re starting to lose it. Why? For what? Just because a few guys feel dysphoric?” Blade asked.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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