• May 19, 2024

Virginia Swimmers with Riley Gaines in Lawsuit Against NCAA

(Morgan Sweeney, The Center Square) – Sixteen former and current female college athletes, including a handful from the women’s Roanoke College swim team and an Olympian at Virginia Tech, have sued the NCAA.

The lawsuit is led by former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines. The athletes’ grievance is the NCAA allowing men who say they are women to compete in women’s sports.

In a 156-page filing on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, the plaintiffs argue the NCAA and event host Georgia Tech knowingly violated Title IX by allowing transgender female student Lia Thomas to participate in the 2022 NCAA Championships.

Gaines, who swam against Thomas there, has become the face of the saving women’s sports in the United States. In late 2023, the Roanoke College women’s swim team publicly joined that movement holding a press conference to talk about its swimmers’ experience with a transgender female student briefly joining the team.

“We tried numerous times to ask the school for support, but each and every time, we were told to deal with it ourselves or told nothing at all,” sophomore and team captain Kate Pearson said then. “We were informed that even if our entire women’s team decided to stand together and not swim … our coach would be allowed to have a one-athlete swim team.”

Along with Gaines and Olympian swimmer Reka Gyorgy of Virginia Tech, Pearson and five others from Roanoke – fellow sophomores Katie Blankenship, Julianna Morrow, Carter Satterfield, and other team captains Lily Mullens and Susanna Price – are among the plaintiffs in the suit. Kaitlyn Wheeler and Ellie Eades, a swimmer and a tennis player, also hail from Gaines’ alma mater.

Others include Kylee Alons, a swimmer from N.C. State; Ainsley Erzen of Arkansas, a soccer and track athlete; and four unnamed athletes, two who competed in Division I swimming, the others in Division II volleyball and Division III track.

Alons is a 31-time All-American, Gaines a 12-time All-American.

The NCAA, in response, said, “College sports are the premier stage for women’s sports in America, and while the NCAA does not comment on pending litigation, the Association and its members will continue to promote Title IX, make unprecedented investments in women’s sports and ensure fair competition in all NCAA championships.”

Gaines and others have advocated for Virginia to pass a Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, but such legislation has failed twice in the state’s General Assembly.


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