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American News Dec 30, 2021 5:30 AM EST

UPenn swimmers cancel boycott of home meet and trans teammate over fears it would keep them out of Ivy League championship

"Knowing they do not have backing from the school or NCAA, they're reluctant to jeopardize their opportunity to make the elite Ivy League squad," one source said.

UPenn swimmers cancel boycott of home meet and trans teammate over fears it would keep them out of Ivy League championship
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A group of University of Pennsylvania that had been considering a boycott of their final home meet of the season next week due to their transgender teammate has now decided against the action, over fears that the display would prevent them from competing in the Ivy League championship in February.

The group had been discussing possibilities for protesting the January 8 meet as a way to express their opposition to NCAA rules that allow transgender teammate Lia Thomas to compete against biological females, according to the Daily Mail.

"They've been ignored by both Penn and the NCAA, and there is a feeling among some of the girls that they should make some sort of statement, seize the opportunity while they have a spotlight on them to make their feelings about the issue known," a source close to the team of 41 women told the Daily Mail.

Those looking to boycott ultimately decided against the action out of fears that it would keep them from competing in the Ivy League championship, where the team's top 17 swimmers will compete in February.

"Knowing they do not have backing from the school or NCAA, they're reluctant to jeopardize their opportunity to make the elite Ivy League squad," the source said.

Thomas came into the spotlight earlier this month after crushing a number of records at the three-day Zippy International in Akron, Ohio.

Thomas broke two national records during that meet, where during one race, the 1650 freestyle final, Thomas finished in first a full 38 seconds ahead of the next swimmer.

Two of her teammates spoke out anonymously following the meet, expressing their frustration over Thomas being allowed to compete after spending her first three years at the school competing as a male.

The final home meet reportedly is traditionally where the school recognizes their senior athletes for their achievements, but some swimmers say that the spotlight will be on Thomas.

"It's a very emotional day and it's supposed to be a wonderful recognition for all the seniors have accomplished over the years," one source told the Daily Mail. "These girls are still determined to make sure they get the proper recognition and that their moment is celebrated as it should be."

Thomas is expected to once again blow away the competition, one source told the Daily Mail.

The crowd may also react in a way similarly to the way they reacted at the Zippy International, where they cheered louder for the second-place finisher.

"It'll be like the last couple meets," said a source. "Lia will finish and nobody will give a sh*t. Then when the first biological female finishes, there will be a huge eruption of applause."

Some teammates have discussed alternatives to a full boycott of the meet, including false starts or not swimming in the event, the first source said. "But it wouldn't be the whole team, so it's an awkward situation."

"If it were me, I'd step up with a sign on my chest stating something like - 'NCAA - Speak up. We need answers,' a parent of one of the swimmers told the Daily Mail. "But it's possible the swimmers may end up doing nothing because they are so afraid to be perceived as transphobic."

Teammates are also worried about inflaming the situation surrounding Thomas, where she and her coaches have received anonymous death threats, the parent said. They also want to avoid clashing with teammates, who have supported Thomas' participation in the sport.

Parents of swimmers on the team have sent a letter to the NCAA demanding that the rules be changes that have allowed Thomas to reach such commanding victories.

"At stake here is the integrity of women's sports," the parents wrote in the letter obtained by the Daily Mail. "The precedent being set – one in which women do not have a protected and equitable space to compete – is a direct threat to female athletes in every sport. What are the boundaries? How is this in line with the NCAA's commitment to providing a fair environment for student-athletes?"

That letter was sent to the NCAA and forwarded to the Ivy League and Penn officials.


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