By TIM BARTO
All-American swimmer Riley Gaines made her first visit to Alaska over the weekend, speaking to enthusiastic crowds who cheered her courage in standing up for female athletes.
The 23-year-old graduate of University of Kentucky has become a hero to those who see the absurdity of allowing men to compete as women, and she has become a villain to those who dismiss biology in favor of gender fluidity while screaming “Transwomen are women!” to anyone who opposes them.
Riley’s trip to Alaska was made possible by Alaska Family Council, a Faith-based organization that advocates for traditional family values and common sense. Alaska Family Council arranged for her to appear at Mountain City Church on Friday, an event open to the general public which drew a crowd of between 250 and 300 people.
On Saturday, the Tennessee native spoke to a private audience of 70 at the Captain Cook Hotel’s Quarterdeck, and on Sunday morning about 50 people joined Riley for breakfast with Alaska Family Council’s own Pastor Cheston McCrea, providing a Biblical message.
Both crowds greeted her with the cheers she deserves as the first college woman athlete to speak boldly against the invasion of men into the women’s sports arena. Introducing herself to the assembled, Riley established her bonafides as a subject matter expert by humbly listing her impressive accomplishments: Southeastern Conference First Team American; SEC record holder; Team Captain of the University of Kentucky Women’s Swim Team; SEC Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year; and Olympic trials qualifier.
Quite the accomplishments, but it was another event that catapulted this courageous young woman into the headlines – and into the storm.
At the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming championships, Riley tied Will Thomas for fifth place in the women’s 200-meter freestyle event.
Thomas, who swam on the men’s team at the University of Pennsylvania under his birth name Will, decided he was a woman, switched his first name to Lia, and was allowed to switch to the women’s team.
At the trophy presentation ceremony following the race, it was Thomas who was photographed with the fifth place trophy. Riley described the series of events that followed by admitting that she tends to say the first thoughts that pop into her head. In this case, it was Why is Thomas getting the trophy?
The first answer provided to her was that they were going in chronological order, which made absolutely no sense. If that meant they were going alphabetically, then Gaines should come before Thomas.
Prodding further for an honest answer, something Riley is good at, she was finally told by an NCAA official that it was their preference that Thomas was to be photographed with the trophy and that preference was not to be challenged. To which Riley said, “Isn’t this exactly what Title IX was meant to prevent?”
The anger and unfairness of it all led Riley to speak out. The recent graduate changed her plans to attend dental school so she could make her story known and help put an end to the lunacy that allows boys and men to invade girls’ and women’s sports.
Her stance has been met with the zeal and misguided passion that comes with challenging the any newfound leftist orthodoxy. They threw drinks at her, called her every vile name imaginable, spit at her, and tried to ban her from speaking on college campuses. When she appeared at San Francisco State University earlier this year, Riley was physically assaulted and forced to barricade in a room for four hours while the self-proclaimed tolerant and enlightened pounded on the door and screamed names and threats towards her.
Riley was able to make light of this dark event, saying the men who hit her were wearing dresses and, thankfully, didn’t hit hard enough to hurt her. But there is another troubling part of this incident that should concern everyone: Riley had police protection with her, so she asked them why they weren’t doing anything about the situation. The police told her that they were to consider the protesters, made up of LGBT people and their supporters, to be allies and to treat them as such. These protesters, Riley reported, were also calling the police pigs and fascists.
It is difficult to believe these incidents occur and people can be so blind to their absurd senses of logic, but it’s also difficult to believe why this issue of protecting women athletes from invasion by men athletes is an issue in the first place. It should never come to this. We should not have to appeal to athletic associations, school boards, legislatures, and the United States Congress to take action to protect girl athletes from boy athletes.
Unfortunately, that is the state of our society today. Fortunately, 23 states – including Alaska! – have now taken steps to save girls’ sports for girls. While Alaska’s protections are not in statute, they were still applauded by Riley. Hopefully, we will have enough legislators that are willing to stand up for common sense, biology, and female athletes. Riley pointed out Senator Shelley Hughes, who attended Sunday’s event, as the Alaska legislator who spearheaded a (failed) bill to save girls’ sports.
Also in attendance were several young female athletes, some of whom asked questions of Riley, looking for advice on how to respond when confronted with similar situations. Riley was gracious with her time, posing for pictures, signing autographs, and chatting with the athletes and other guests who look up to her for taking a strong stand for what is right.
Riley brought her husband Louis with her to Alaska. Her legal last name is now Barker, but her notoriety came under her maiden name, so that is why she still goes by Gaines for her public appearances. The two of them are overly and unfairly good looking – a real life Ken-and-Barbie couple, but they’re also good-natured people who are having to put up with physical threats by cretins who publish their home address. Yet Riley remains steadfast and undaunted.
She never expected or wanted this to be her life’s mission, but she will not back down. She is encouraged by those who support her, and her desire to continue on and do even more is propelled by those who oppose and attack her.
Tim Barto is vice president of Alaska Family Council and a regular contributor to Must Read Alaska. He is thankful for an inspiring and courageous young woman like Riley Gaines Barker.