Riley Gaines flames ESPN over Lia Thomas walkout response: 'No surprise to me'

Former NCAA All-American swimmer says ESPN has remained silent after her criticism of Lia Thomas’ Women’s History Month segment

ESPN has allegedly not responded to former NCAA All-American swimmer Riley Gaines’ calls for female employees to revolt after honoring transgender athlete Lia Thomas for Women’s History Month, leading Gaines to double-down on her argument Tuesday.

On "Varney & Co." when asked by host Stuart Varney whether Gaines had received a response from ESPN, the swimmer claimed she hadn’t, "which is of no surprise to me."

"I will say," Gaines clarified, "I admire Sage Steele, who works at ESPN… I admire her so much because she has taken a public stance on this. Of course, working around sports, we know the advantages that men have in comparison to women when we're comparing things that require athleticism or sheer strength. And Sage has been the only woman working at ESPN to publicly acknowledge that, and so I admire her for her courageousness and her strength."

In honor of Women’s History Month, ESPN celebrated Lia Thomas during a televised segment as the only transgender person to "ever win a NCAA Division 1 championship." Thomas told ESPN she’s "very humbled and honored" by the recognition and hopes to give other trans people "inspiration and motivation."


Gaines, in response, took to Twitter on Sunday to criticize the sports outlet. The Kentucky swimmer has been at the forefront of physical fairness in women’s sports after tying with Thomas at the NCAA championships last year.

Swimmers Lia Thomas and Riley Gaines

Former Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines (right) got no response from ESPN over her criticism of their featuring transgender athlete Lia Thomas (left) in honor of Women's History Month, which Gaines said "is of no surprise to me" on "Varney & Co."  (Fox News)

"Lia Thomas is not a brave, courageous woman who EARNED a national title," Gaines’ tweet reads. "He is an arrogant, cheat who STOLE a national title from a hardworking, deserving woman. The @ncaa is responsible."

"If I was a woman working at ESPN, I would walk out. You're spineless @espn."

Gaines explained why she believes she's yet to hear any backlash regarding her comments.

"People are becoming more bold, people are starting to open their eyes to what this gender ideology propaganda being pushed by the left, being pushed by the media, being pushed within education systems, [is]." she said. "They're opening their eyes to how harmful this is, specifically, of course, to women and to children."

The swimmer-turned-activist further called for tangible solutions and athletic divisions for transgender individuals that allows them to compete "fairly" and "safely."

"A lot of people will, of course, look at this as something that’s [segregation, or] we're isolating the trans community. But from my perspective, we're embracing the trans community. Five years ago, if you would have suggested a trans category, people would have laughed in your face. But now we're acknowledging these people do, in fact, exist," Gaines said.

Thomas’ participation in NCAA women’s swimming during the 2021-22 season sparked a growing debate over the fairness of transgender women competing against biological females. She became the first transgender woman to win an Ivy League Championship and later an NCAA Championship in the 500 freestyle.


"This was a male swimmer, a mediocre male swimmer who was ranked 462nd nationally, at best, among the men [who] has now transitioned to a woman and, of course, naturally trails the women, dominates the women's field," Gaines explained. "How are we not seeing the blatant discrimination that we are facing on the basis of sex, which is, of course, what everything Title IX was created to protect? We are, as women, being discriminated on the basis of sex."

ESPN is "declining comment" at this time, a spokesperson told Fox News Digital Tuesday afternoon.


Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.