EXCLUSIVE: Riley Gaines Calls Out ESPN For Silencing Her, Urges Others To Speak Up And Shares Wild Encounter With NCAA Head Mark Emmert

Videos by OutKick

Riley Gaines has been a tireless advocate for women in sports. But she can’t be the only one.

The former University of Kentucky swimmer spoke with with OutKick’s Jonathan Hutton and Chad Withrow on “Hot Mic” Friday about the infiltration of biological males in women’s sports

She spoke extensively about her experience competing against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. She expressed discomfort in sharing the locker room with Thomas (a problem the NCAA skirted around by declaring the locker rooms “temporarily unisex”).

And she discussed the injustice of having a fifth-place trophy yanked from her because “Lia has to have it for pictures.”

Now, she’s fighting to make sure other women don’t have to experience what she did.

Riley Gaines Slams Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas’ Nomination
(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Riley Gaines calls for more people to speak out to save women’s sports.

Gaines said she has received countless messages from people who support her fight — including coaches, athletic directors and presidents of universities. But while they encourage her in private, they are silent in public.

They don’t want to get sued. They don’t want the backlash. And they don’t want to rock the boat.

“At first when they said this to me, I felt truly so humbled. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m doing the right thing,'” Gaines said. “But now a year later, I do not feel honored when these people say this to me because I’ve realized that silence is complicity. These people know it’s wrong. They know that it’s not right or ethical or fair to allow men into women’s spaces and sports, yet they’re still not standing up to it.”

Riley Gaines: 'Silence Is Complicity' When It Comes To Trans Athletes In Women's Sports
Lia Thomas — a biological male — won the championship in the women’s 500 freestyle. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

One of these people, she said, was then NCAA President Mark Emmert. During the event to honor the NCAA Woman of the Year (for which Gaines and Thomas were both nominated), Emmert gave Gaines some words of encouragement.

“He came up to me and said, ‘Keep fighting. We support you,'” she recalled. “But the irony because he’s literally the one we are fighting.”

In March 2022, Emmert wrote a letter about the future of transgender athletes in women’s sports.

“As the top governing board of the NCAA, the Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports,” Emmert wrote. “The NCAA Board of Governors expects that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect. We are committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them.”

But the tide could be turning.

Last year, the World Aquatics (formerly FINA) banned transgender athletes from competing in international women’s swimming events. And earlier this month, the track and field governing body followed suit.

Gaines said she thinks people are starting to open their eyes.

“People are getting fed up with all this gender ideology, propaganda stuff that’s being pushed,” she said. “I think at first they wanted to be seen as inclusive and virtue signaling all the things. But I think people are realizing how this is harmful, specifically to women and specifically to children.”

She noted, however, that some media outlets, like ESPN, are actively silencing people like her.

“It’s chilling to think about how we’re having our freedom of speech suppressed,” she said.

Gaines offered one final message to the people listening — be it parents, medical professionals, coaches or athletes.

“It’s so important to use your voice,” she said. “Be bold. Be loud. Don’t be scared to ruffle feathers.”

Watch her entire interview on “Hot Mic” here:

Written by Amber Harding

Amber is a Midwestern transplant living in Murfreesboro, TN. She spends most of her time taking pictures of her dog, explaining why real-life situations are exactly like "this one time on South Park," and being disappointed by the Tennessee Volunteers.


Leave a Reply
  1. ANYONE who wants “chilling” needs to compare the present-day US culture to central European culture during the first 1/3 of the 20th century, paying close attention to the Dadaist and Bauhaus movements in the arts and architecture (which, in that period, were as influential as today’s internet and sports). Eventually, “das folk” and “la gente” get fed-up with the bullshit and look for ANYONE to end the non-sense; to bring back “traditional culture” and they demand little things like “make the trains run on time.” As a student of History, I KNOW where exactly where we are headed.

Leave a Reply