Riley Gaines, an All-American swimmer and advocate for women’s sports, is endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for President, she announced in an interview Thursday with Eric Bolling on Newsmax.
Gaines plans to join DeSantis Friday in South Carolina to highlight steps he’s taken to prohibit transgender individuals from competing in women’s sports. The two will appear together in Greenville.
“I’m so excited to announce that I am officially endorsing Gov. DeSantis as President,” Gaines said. “His leadership has been crucial in rooting out the radical ideology that’s really driving this insanity, and really bringing visibility to these cultural issues that affect the breakdown of families, the breakdown of faith, the breakdown of freedoms. He’s really taken on this political establishment, the woke corporations, the media — and he’s won. We know this based off his success in Florida alone.”
DeSantis signed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” in 2021, which specifies student-athletes at public schools may only participate on teams of the gender they were assigned at birth. Last year, DeSantis signed a proclamation declaring Emma Weyant the winner of the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA women’s tournament after a transgender woman, Lia Thomas, won the event. DeSantis’ declaration was only symbolic and Thomas remains the NCAA-recognized winner.
While conservatives and some moderates who are worried about transgender women athletes jeopardizing the chances for success for other women have lauded DeSantis’ push to prohibit trans girls and women from participating in women’s sports, critics argue it’s part of a broader attack on transgender individuals. That includes DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, which prohibits classroom education on sexual orientation or gender identity, in most cases, in all grades, as well as his efforts to restrict bathroom use and the use of preferred gender pronouns.
Gaines is a 12-time All-American swimmer with five SEC titles. She swam at the University of Kentucky where, last year, she finished tied for fifth place with Thomas, but because there was only one trophy, Thomas reportedly received it at the time while Gaines was told hers would be mailed to her.
“It was a bit disheartening,” Gaines said at the time according to the Daily Wire. “I left the pool with no trophy. Not a big deal, but it was the goal that I had set all year.”
Since then, Gaines has been a vocal critic of trans women in women’s sports, including her public criticism of ESPN for featuring Thomas in a Women’s History Month special.
“Lia Thomas is not a brave, courageous woman who EARNED a national title,” she tweeted. She then went on to misgender Thomas, adding that “he is an arrogant, cheat who STOLE a national title from a hardworking, deserving woman.”
DeSantis is currently touring South Carolina now that he’s officially a presidential candidate. His South Carolina stops follow tours of Iowa and New Hampshire earlier in the week, all early voting states.