A Purdue University professor is under fire after saying that transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas should be celebrated as a “trailblazer,” the same way Jackie Robinson was when he broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier.
Cheryl Cooky, Purdue professor of American Studies and of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, penned an opinion piece published by NBC News, in which she claimed that Thomas’ victories in the pool should be celebrated as historical firsts.
“Thomas, as the first transgender athlete to win a Division I NCAA championship, deserves to be placed among the other firsts,” Cooky wrote, referring to Thomas’ first place win in the women’s 500-yard. “She should be embraced in the history of progress that sports represent and recognized as the trailblazer that she is.”
Cooky also said that Thomas’ win allows women to break down gender barriers in sports and be “treated the same and given the same opportunities as men.”
“For anyone who cares about the advancement of sports, and women’s sports in particular, her win should be celebrated,” Cooky wrote.
Opponents of trans athletes in women’s sports strongly criticized the piece.
Author and journalist Abigail Shrier said Thomas’ win should not be lauded.
“First, they steal opportunities from women,” Shrier tweeted. “Then, they tell us we ‘should be celebrating’ this as a victory for women. A Masterclass in Gaslighting.”
The Daily Mail reports that Twitter user Tony Scampanelli agreed that celebrating Thomas was going too far.
“This isn’t an advancement of women’s sports or sports at all,” Scampanelli wrote. “It’s the advancement of uncommon sense and obsession with some moral superiority based on ‘progressive’ value.”
Laura Tuck, another Twitter user, took a screenshot of NBC’s tweet promoting the article and edited the headline to read, “Anyone who cares about the advancement of sports, and women’s sports in particular, should [not] celebrate Lia Thomas’ win.”
Comparisons between Robinson and Thomas have ostensibly been made before.
One of Thomas’ teammates told the Washington Examiner in January that Thomas had allegedly compared herself to the baseball great.
“She compares herself to Jackie Robinson,” the teammate, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being labeled transphobic, said. “[Lia] said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports.”
When giving an interview to Sports Illustrated, Thomas reportedly denied the allegation.
In a February opinion piece in the National Review, Madeleine Kearns said it was not Thomas who should be likened to Jackie Robinson, but the biological female athletes opposing the trans swimmer being allowed to compete.
“They are the ones whose rights are being trampled on, who face humiliation and bullying,” Kearns wrote.
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