Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines tells Truett McConnell crowd, 'When they want you silent, speak louder'


CLEVELAND, Ga. — Truett McConnell University hosted a Friends and Family Weekend on Friday and Saturday for students, alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, and partners for a variety of exciting activities. The featured speaker for the special weekend was Riley Gaines, who was introduced by University President Dr. Emir Caner as a 12-time All-American swimmer for the University of Kentucky with 5 SEC titles.

Caner referred to the UK athlete as a Christian culture warrior who has become a powerful, outspoken proponent of reserving women’s sports for biological females.

Gaines has sometimes received cool receptions at institutions of higher learning like Penn State and has been the recipient of physical and verbal abuse when speaking at other schools. She has been called pejorative names, been spat upon, had people show up at her front door, had drones fly over her house, and been subject to what she calls emotional blackmail because of her stand for truth.

She explained, “I’ve faced extreme resistance. Protesters consistently try to shout me down. University administrators try to cancel my speaking events. At San Francisco State University, I was physically assaulted by an angry mob. I was punched by a man in a dress, but fortunately he was unable to hit me very hard. I was locked in a classroom and held for ransom for over three hours.

“But while I was barricaded in that classroom, I wrote on social media, ‘When they want you silent, speak louder.’”

Unlike some of the hostile receptions she has received Riley repeatedly expressed gratitude for the gracious and hospitable reception she received, from TMU’s president and student body.

In fact, the number of students that remained on campus for the weekend’s activities and for Gaines’s speech was heartwarming to the courageous, bright, articulate, and winsome 23-year-old Ms. Gaines.

While in college, Riley dreamed of pursuing a dental degree, but her life was significantly altered when she was forced to share a locker room and then compete against biological male Lia Thomas at the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship. She has been a voice of truth in our chaotic society and often referred to as a champion for integrity in the world of sports.

When Riley discovered that Lia Thomas, (formerly Will Thomas), a 6’ 4” 22-year-old male had been granted the privilege to compete in the NCAA Championships, she recoiled in disbelief, but commented, “It had nothing to do with being transphobic. It was amazing to me that the sport had gotten to this point. People failed to see the gravity of it.”

Interestingly and amazingly, Riley managed to tie Thomas in the 200-meter freestyle. The judge declared it a tie, but awarded the trophy to Thomas for the photo opportunities that would be expected to highlight a biological male winning a national title in a female sport.

Riley explained, “That is what thrust me into this position of no longer being willing to lie. That is what they were asking us to do. When they were asking us to smile and happily step aside and allow these men to step on our podiums and take our scholarships, our opportunities, and our titles, that was asking us to lie.

“We spent our whole lives training to be the best in women’s sports, then told we would have to compete against a man – and essentially told to celebrate his victory. And asking us not to feel uncomfortable by having this man undressing inches away from us.”

When Riley was asked to appear before a House panel on protecting girls’ sports from Biden policies, she had an interesting exchange with Representative Summer Lee who called Riley and those who protest biological males playing in women’s sports “transphobic."

Riley responded, “Inclusion cannot be prioritized over safety and fairness, ranking member Lee, if my testimony makes me ‘transphobic,’ then I believe your opening monologue makes you a misogynist.”

Riley commented, “Many people in high government positions deny what it is to be a woman. They can’t even say what a woman is. And we have a sitting Supreme Court Justice who won't say what a woman is because she is not a biologist, which is so silly. You don’t have to be a biologist to know what a woman is.  I am not a veterinarian, but I know what a dog is."

Riley indicated that she was waiting for someone to come on the scene to protect women athletes and fight for the integrity of women’s sports: a coach, an official, a parent, but soon realized that if the women in sports did not stick up for themselves, no one else would.

Gaines explained, “After graduating from the University of Kentucky I could have ridden off into the sunset, but that was not God’s plan for my life.”

She asks, “Where are the feminists? While feminists once fought for women’s rights, they have been strangely silent on the matter of biological males competing in women’s sports."

Furthermore, while men are instructed in God’s Word to provide for and protect women’s sports, they have abdicated their responsibility to do so.

Riley added, “We need men. We need strong men. We need masculine men to fulfill their Biblical role. There is a saying, ‘Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men; weak men create hard times. You can see this played out in history, and I think the last time we had strong men was during WWII.

"So, now we are at the part of the process where weak men have created hard times, which we can only hope that these hard times garner strong men, but we need to expedite this process. Don’t wait until you are personally affected. Be proactive. So, parents, defend your daughters and teach your sons masculinity.

"At schools across the country, I tell my story and defend basic truths, common sense, and women. It shouldn’t be controversial to say there are only two sexes. You can’t change your sex, and each sex is deserving of equal opportunities."

Through it all, Riley declares that she has been spiritually awakened, stating, “I have seen how God is moving, how He has His hand on me, but I have also seen how His opposition works and moves through people. It is plaguing this country. And I think we can all agree that this is a spiritual battle. It is no longer right versus wrong, or good versus bad. This is moral versus evil.

“But a lie never become truth; bad never becomes good; evil never becomes moral just because it is embraced or accepted by a small portion of our society.

"My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:18 which says, 'For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy compared with the glory that is going to be revealed in us.'"

Riley explained, “I have held this verse near to my heart for years, because the preparation for competitive swimming calls for suffering.

"I would begin swimming at five o’clock in the morning and continue until 8:00 AM and swim for three more hours in the afternoon. Then I would put an ice bag to my aching shoulder and prepare to go through the same routine the next day.

"So, I think that God prepared me for the challenges and struggles to engage in this battle to preserve the integrity of women’s sports today. God doesn’t call the equipped: He equips the called. God calls us all to a high and noble cause.”

Those in the audience at TMU loved Riley Gaines. The students and guests gave her a standing ovation at the conclusion of her address, and it is certain that she left Cleveland greatly encouraged to see such a large number of students and guests of the University respond to her with great love, enthusiasm and admiration.