Ron DeSantis Rejects Transgender Swimmer’s Victory, Declares Runner-Up ‘Rightful Winner’

Florida's GOP governor faced criticism for saying the NCAA was "making a mockery of its championships" by allowing Lia Thomas to compete in the women's event.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday refused to accept the victory of Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer on the University of Pennsylvania women’s team, in the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships.

In a proclamation, DeSantis instead declared runner-up in the race Emma Weyant, an Olympic silver medalist from Sarasota who now competes for the University of Virginia, as the “rightful winner.”

“Since she is a native Floridian from Sarasota, I, Ron DeSantis, Governor of the State of Florida, do hereby declare in Florida that Emma Weyant is the rightful winner of the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s 500-yard Freestyle, congratulate her on yet another significant achievement, and express pride that she is a Florida resident,” the document asserted:

Thomas made history last week as the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA swimming championship.

DeSantis’ culture-war declaration rejecting her victory has no bearing on the outcome. The NCAA, college sports’ governing body, sets rules and oversees judging.

Sharing his proclamation on Twitter, DeSantis railed against the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s events, claiming that “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,” he added.

DeSantis, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2024, last year signed legislation banning transgender athletes in Florida from competing in women’s events at high school and college levels.

His proclamation on Tuesday reignited the debate, with some critics accusing him of transphobia and of using transphobic language.

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