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ESPN personalities slam Biden's Title IX proposal amid uproar over transgender athletes in women's sports

ESPN personalities Sage Steele and Samantha Ponder panned Lia Thomas’ support of the Biden administration’s plan to release new Title IX rules that would bar states from banning transgender students from competing against the gender they identify as.

Steele and Ponder each quote-tweeted Riley Gaines, who tweeted the video of Thomas’ support and ripped the White House for the plan. Gaines, a former decorated NCAA swimmer at Kentucky, has been at the forefront of keeping women’s sports fair and equal.

“This is heartbreaking, maddening, and really difficult to watch,” Steele tweeted. “I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and be relieved that this was all just a ridiculous, comical, nonsensical dream….”


Joe Biden in April 2023

President Biden speaks about the economy at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 77 facility in Accokeek, Maryland, on Wednesday. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Ponder added: “This would take away so many opportunities for biological women and girls in sports. It is a shame that we are needing to fight for the integrity of Title IX in 2023 and the reason it was needed in the first place.”

Thomas, who created a firestorm in women’s swimming when she won an Ivy League and NCAA Championship competing against biological women, expressed her support for the Title IX changes in a video tweeted by Gaines.

“Under the guise of competitive fairness? Are you really trying to say you would have won a national title against the men? Does it not break your heart to see women lose out on these opportunities?” Gaines wrote in a tweet. “The Biden Admins proposed bill denies science, truth, and common sense.

Sam Ponder in February 2023

Samantha Ponder attends SiriusXM at Super Bowl LVII in Phoenix on Feb. 10, 2023. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

“This take is selfish and shows an utter disregard for women. The Biden Administration is actively and aggressively working to pass laws that erase decent and fair treatment for women in sports. @POTUS.”

Gaines’ latest criticism came after the White House vowed to veto a bill that would prevent biological males from participating in women’s sports should it pass both houses of Congress.


The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, or H.R. 734, was introduced by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., and is expected to come to a vote on the House floor sometime this week.

“The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 734,” the White House said in a statement. “For students nationwide, participating in sports and being part of a team is an important part of growing up, staying engaged in school, and learning leadership and life skills. H.R. 734 would deny access to sports for many families by establishing an absolute ban on transgender students — even those as young as elementary schoolers — playing on a team consistent with their gender identity.” 

Sage Steele in 2019

“SportsCenter” anchor Sage Steele appears at the espnW Women + Sports Summit held at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, California, on Oct. 23, 2019. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

The statement accused politicians of dictating a “one-size-fits-all requirement that forces coaches to remove kids from their teams,” and argued transgender youth across the country were already facing a mental health crisis.

It claimed such a law was “unnecessary,” and that it “hurts families and students.”

“Discrimination has no place in our nation’s schools or on our playing fields. Instead of addressing the pressing issues that families and students face today — such as raising teacher pay, keeping guns out of schools, addressing the mental health crisis our youth face, and helping students learn and recover academically from unprecedented disruptions — Congressional Republicans have instead chosen to prioritize policies that discriminate against children,” the White House said.

Olympic gold medalist calls on parents to 'wake up,' speak out in support of Riley Gaines Video


“If the President were presented with H.R. 734, he would veto it,” it added.

Fox News’ Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.

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