Trans swimmer Lia Thomas faces protesters in addition to fierce competition at NCAA Championships
Protesters seeking to "save women's sports" have descended on the 2022 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships.
The anti-trans crowd lobbied outside the event as trans swimmer Lia Thomas won her first national title.
"We're not going to stand by and let women be displaced," one protester told ESPN's Katie Barnes.
Lia Thomas — a college senior at the University of Pennsylvania — has been at the center of the debate on transgender athletes' participation in women's sports ever since she began posting record-breaking times in the pool for the Quakers.
And now that the three-time Ivy League champion has made her way to Atlanta for the 2022 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships, Thomas is facing more backlash than ever.
As the 22-year-old won her first national title, beating out two Olympic medalists to make history as NCAA Division I's first-ever trans champion, protesters gathered outside of Georgia Tech's McAuley Aquatic Center with a fervent call to "save women's sports."
According to ESPN's Katie Barnes, more than 20 protesters were on hand in Atlanta, as Thomas competed in her first of three title events. A number of people in the crowd outside the event were seen holding "Save Women's Sports" posters, while others touted messages like "Girls' Sports for Girls Only" and "Support Fair Sports."
"We're not going to stand by and let women be displaced," Annabelle Rutledge, the national director for Young Women for America, told Barnes. "We must fight for their rights."
While some of the protesters' cries were veiled criticisms of Thomas and other trans women competing in women's sports, others were more explicit in their transphobic rhetoric. One member of the crowd wore a shirt that read: "That man is a cheat," referring to Thomas, who is a woman.
Barnes reported that Idaho state Rep. Barbara Ehardt was also part of the group. The Republican politician authored HB 500, the nation's first bill seeking to restrict trans kids' participation in sports based on the gender they were assigned at birth, but the law has since been deemed unconstitutional in federal court.
This week's protests come as legislators across the United States ramp up similar efforts to box out transgender people from athletic competitions at all levels.
While there were a number of people on hand to rally against Thomas and trans women in sports, per Barnes, roughly a dozen counter-protestors gathered on Georgia Tech's campus in support of the Penn star and other trans athletes.
"They are bringing off-campus hate onto our campus," Georgia Tech Grad Pride president Naiki Kaffezakis told Barnes.
Other students said they were "rooting for" Thomas, who has two additional events remaining on her schedule at NCAA Championships. She'll compete in Friday's 200-yard freestyle event — where she is the favorite — as well as Saturday's 100-yard freestyle race.
She won Ivy League championships in both events, as well as the 500-yard freestyle.
Read the original article on Insider