Several members of the University of Pennsylvania women’s swimming team reportedly considered protesting the participation of transgender teammate Lia Thomas.
However, fearing reprisal, the players did not carry out such a protest, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday.
Thomas, a man who identifies as a woman, has broken multiple women’s records this season. He competed on the men’s team as Will Thomas for three years before taking a hiatus, after which he joined the women’s team as Lia.
During the Zippy Invitational on Dec. 5, Thomas won the 1,650-meter freestyle with a record time of 15:59.71, beating teammate Anna Kalandadze, who came second with a time of 16:37.4, by 38 seconds.
The day before, he had broken another record by finishing the 200-meter freestyle with a record time of 1:41.93. He “won the race by nearly seven seconds,” Penn Athletics noted that day.
Thomas’ records concerned parents, who wrote a letter of protest to the NCAA stressing that allowing a man to compete against women denied female athletes “a protected and equitable space to compete.”
“At stake here is the integrity of women’s sports,” the parents said.
The women finished first in 1⃣1⃣ events and beat Brown, 179-121, today!
— Penn Swimming & Diving (@PennSwimDive) November 13, 2021
Members of the swimming team also decried the unfairness of permitting men to compete in women’s sports, albeit under the condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation from higher-ups, according to OutKick.
A source told OutKick that the administration at Penn had “strongly advised” against female swimmers expressing their displeasure about Thomas’ participation to the media.
“They’ve been ignored by both Penn and the NCAA, and there is a feeling among some of the girls that they should make some sort of statement, seize the opportunity while they have a spotlight on them to make their feelings about the issue known,” a source close to the team told the Daily Mail.
The group of swimmers, according to the source, had been exploring different ways they could protest NCAA rules that allow a man like Thomas to compete against women merely because he identifies as a female and has completed a year of hormonal therapy.
However, the women decided against boycotting their last home meet of the season.
“‘Knowing they do not have backing from the school or NCAA, they’re reluctant to jeopardize their opportunity to make the elite Ivy League squad,” the source said.
“If it were me, I’d step up with a sign on my chest stating something like – ‘NCAA – Speak up. We need answers,'” a parent of one swimmer told the Daily Mail. “But it’s possible the swimmers may end up doing nothing because they are so afraid to be perceived as transphobic.”
“It’s a very emotional day and it’s supposed to be a wonderful recognition for all the seniors have accomplished over the years,” a source told the Daily Mail. “These girls are still determined to make sure they get the proper recognition and that their moment is celebrated as it should be.”
However, getting the recognition they deserve will be hard for the female swimmers as Thomas dominates their competitions.
Still, some expect that spectators might react by cheering more for the swimmer who finishes second than for Thomas, the Daily Mail reported.
“It’ll be like the last couple meets,” a source told the outlet. “Lia will finish and nobody will give a s***. Then when the first biological female finishes, there will be a huge eruption of applause.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.