Florida Gov. DeSantis officially declares Sarasota's Emma Weyant 'best female swimmer' over transgender athlete

The proclamation will mark DeSantis’ latest jab at the NCAA.

Photo via DeSantis/Twitter
Gov. Ron DeSantis jumped into the national debate over transgender athletes on Tuesday, announcing plans to offer a nonbinding measure proclaiming a new 2022 NCAA women’s swim champion.

The proclamation will name Virginia’s Emma Weyant, a Sarasota native, as the “best female swimmer” in the 500-yard freestyle swim event. It, however, will not affect the actual standings of the recent event, as NCAA rules govern the race.

Weyant finished second last week in the contest against University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas. Thomas is the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA swimming championship.

Thomas finished the event in 4 minutes and 33.24 seconds, per the Associated Press. Weyant trailed with a time of 4:34.99.

Speaking at a news conference in Wesley Chapel, DeSantis decried the NCAA for allowing transgender athletes to “destroy women’s athletics.”

He further accused the athletic governing body of undermining the “integrity” of competition and “crowning somebody else.” DeSantis never mentioned Thomas by name.

“We need to stop allowing organizations like the NCAA to perpetuate frauds on the public,” DeSantis said. “They are putting ideology ahead of opportunity for women athletes.”

The proclamation will mark DeSantis’ latest jab at the NCAA. The pair last year locked horns over legislation restricting a transgender woman’s ability to play in women’s sports.

Despite warnings of economic ramifications, DeSantis persisted against the NCAA, signing the legislation on the first day of Pride Month.

“I think that there’s just some people afraid to speak out. … So in Florida we’re going to be very clear,” DeSantis said. “When they try to counteract the ability of women to realize their dreams, we are going to speak out about that.”

A former college athlete himself, DeSantis praised Weyant as a “superstar” athlete. The 20-year-old took home a silver medal last year at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“If the NCAA was willing to actually ensure the integrity of women’s competition, she would have been crowned national champion,” DeSantis contended.

A 2024 GOP presidential contender, DeSantis has risen into conservative stardom, in part, by leaning into culture war issues and bucking COVID-19 public health restrictions.

The Republican-led Legislature completed the 2022 Legislative Session earlier this month, and pushed through bills on multiple controversial issues such as abortion.

They also established a new election fraud police force, implemented restrictions on classroom instruction about sexuality and gender, and doubled down on a crackdown against illegal immigration.

This article first appeared at Florida Politics.
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