WASHINGTON, D.C. — Colleges and universities across the country recently nominated 577 female student-athletes as candidates for the 2022 NCAA Woman of the Year. But one, the University of Pennsylvania, chose to nominate trans-identified male swimmer Lia Thomas. 

Thomas competed on the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s swimming team for three years before joining the women’s team in 2021, dominating several women’s events.

Jennifer C. Braceras, director of Independent Women’s Law Center, said, “University of Pennsylvania’s decision to nominate Thomas is a kick in the face to all of Penn’s female student athletes and, indeed, to female athletes everywhere.”

“The NCAA should reject Penn’s nomination and select as its 2022 Woman of the Year a female athlete like former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, an outspoken advocate for women and girls,” Braceras added.

Riley Gaines, an IW storyteller, was nominated by the University of Kentucky for the honor. She competed against Thomas at the NCAA Championships earlier this year, where they both tied for fifth-place in the 200 freestyle final.

Gaines said, “UPenn’s nomination of Lia Thomas for NCAA Woman of the Year is a slap on the face to all 223,000+ female athletes across the NCAA. This award is the highest honor for females in all of collegiate athletics; The pinnacle achievement that girls can only dream of. A person who spent 95% of their life as a male has been nominated over women who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much for their respective sport. The NCAA has completely disregarded and disrespected women who have essentially dedicated their whole lives to this same organization. UPenn and the NCAA have made their priority clear and (surprise!) it’s not protecting females.”



Independent Women’s Law Center advocates for equal opportunity, individual liberty, and respect for the American constitutional order.