Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has faced backlash on social media for his comments directed at former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines, in which he criticized her athletic ability and suggested she “sucked at swimming.”
Olbermann’s remarks came in response to a post made by Gaines in defense of a “Women’s Bill of Rights,” which emphasizes the biological differences between males and females. Gaines had famously tied with transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male and former member of the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team.
Gaines fired back at Olbermann for his comments, and many others criticized his mockery of her athletic abilities. Former teammates and political commentators condemned Olbermann’s bias and dismissive attitude.
Ah, makes sense now why you got fired from ESPN. https://t.co/Js2q0NMSxu
— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) August 31, 2023
Former University of Pennsylvania swimmer Paula Scanlan, who was on the same team as Thomas, highlighted the invasion of women’s spaces by men and the harm caused by this narrative. Scanlan had testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee about her experiences and argued that the #MeToo movement had shifted its focus.
Prof. Emeritus Colin Wight pointed out Gaines’ swim resume, which included awards such as “Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year” from the SEC and “Olympic Trials qualifier” in 2021. Wight criticized Olbermann for his ignorance and derogatory remarks about Gaines’ swimming abilities.
Washington Examiner contributor Kimberly Ross labeled Olbermann’s comments as “sexist” and highlighted the irony of his criticism, given the context of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas identifying as female to compete in women’s events.
Scanlan also argued in an op-ed for the Telegraph that women’s organizations in the U.S. had absorbed the #MeToo movement, neglecting issues related to transgender women and sexual assault.
Olbermann’s comments received widespread criticism for their insensitivity and perceived bias against Gaines and women’s rights in sports.
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