Florida Gov. DeSantis declares Weyant winner over transgender athlete
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a proclamation on Tuesday acknowledging Emma Weyant as the winner of a women’s college swimming event after her recent loss to a transgender athlete and accused the NCAA of destroying opportunities for women.
Lia Thomas beat Sarasota native Weyant by 1.75 seconds in the 500-yard freestyle last Thursday in Atlanta to become the first transgender National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion in Division I history.
But in the eyes of DeSantis, a Donald Trump ally who is widely seen as a leading presidential contender in 2024, it is University of Virginia freshman and Olympic silver medallist Weyant who is the deserved winner of the event.
“She had the fastest time of any woman in college athletics,” DeSantis said of Weyant during a news conference.
“Now the NCAA is basically taking efforts to destroy women’s athletics, they’re trying to undermine the integrity of the competition and they’re crowning somebody else the women’s champion and we think that’s wrong.”
By allowing men to compete in women's sports, the NCAA is destroying opportunities for women, making a mockery of its championships, and perpetuating a fraud.
In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota's Emma Weyant as the best women's swimmer in the 500y freestyle. pic.twitter.com/tBmFxFE3q6
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 22, 2022
The NCAA did not immediately respond when asked to comment.
Transgender rights have long been a controversial and politically divisive issue in the United States from sports to serving in the military and even what bathrooms people are allowed to use.
The NCAA Board of Governors in January voted in support of a sport-by-sport approach to transgender participation that it said “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness … for all who compete.”
In February, USA Swimming unveiled a new policy to allow transgender athletes to compete in elite events by setting out criteria that aims to mitigate any unfair advantages.
The issue gained some level of urgency given the emergence of Thomas, who competed on the University of Pennsylvania men’s team for three years before transitioning and moving to the women’s team and setting multiple program records.
According to DeSantis, the NCAA is making a mockery of its championship given the organisation’s stance on transgender athletes’ participation.
“We need to stop allowing organisations like the NCAA to perpetuate frauds of the public. And that’s exactly what they are doing,” said DeSantis.
“They are putting ideology ahead of opportunity for women athletes and I think that there are just some people that are afraid to speak out and say what they are doing, but that is what they are doing.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)