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Riley Gaines calls out Megan Rapinoe for 'virtue signaling' on transgender athletes: 'It's actually exclusive'

Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines slammed USWNT star Megan Rapinoe for 'undermining' female athletes by supporting biological male athletes competing alongside women.

Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines called out soccer star Megan Rapinoe for "classic virtue signaling" after she mentioned she would "absolutely" support a transgender athlete on the U.S. women's soccer team. 

Gaines joined "Fox News Tonight" Monday to discuss how Rapinoe's remarks are anything but "inclusive," noting the irony of her fight for other aspects of "fairness" in women's sports like pay and resources. 

"Not only is she just a high-profile athlete, she's actually someone who fought for women in sports. She fought for equal pay. She fought for equal access, equal resources, all of those things in comparison to the women's U.S. national soccer team, to the men's," Gaines told host Piers Morgan. 


"And now she is undermining her fight entirely, and notice how earlier this week she announced her retirement. So she's done playing," she continued. "This is a classic case of virtue signaling. She wants to be seen as kind. She wants to be seen as inclusive, but it is not inclusive what she's fighting for. It's actually exclusive. It's exclusive to the very female athletes who the women's sporting category was created to protect. And it's not kind to ask a girl to undress in front of a man in a locker room that is the exact opposite of kind."

Soccer icon Rapinoe has been a public advocate for the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports, and ahead of what will be her final World Cup appearance before retiring, the one-time Golden Boot winner said she would "absolutely" support having a trans woman on the USWNT roster.

In an interview with Time published Monday, Rapinoe recalled highlights from her lengthy career, including her battles both on and off the pitch. She was asked specifically about her push to defend transgender athletes’ participation in women’s sports. 

"We as a country are trying to legislate away people’s full humanity," she told the outlet. 

Gaines said Rapinoe using her platform to advocate for trans athletes' right to compete in women's sports actually silences those who are critical of the move. 


"My story is not unique. It's happening every sport, every division, every level in every state, all across the world, really, and every country. So to deny that is entirely disingenuous. It blows my mind," Gaines said. "I could list 100 examples seriously off the top of my head and me being in the position that I'm in using my platform for this." 

"I get those messages all the time, whether it's email, direct message from parents, athletes, coaches who feel silenced, who actually are effectively silenced, and they're doing it," she continued. "There's silenced because of messages like Rapinoe's, who says you're a bigot. If you think this, you're anti-trans if you think this. Well, that's not true. Biology is not bigotry, and Megan is a contributing factor in people being silent."

Rapinoe also mentioned during the magazine interview that questioning transgender participation in women’s sports is harmful.

Rapinoe mentioned remarks made by tennis legend Martina Navratilova and ESPN anchor Sage Steele, who believe transgender women should not be competing against biological females in sports. 

"I don’t want to mince words about it," Rapinoe said. "Dave Chappelle making jokes about trans people directly leads to violence, whether it’s verbal or otherwise, against trans people. 

"Fox & Friends First" co-host Carley Shimkus said Tuesday Rapinoe is allowed to have her opinion, but criticized her for shutting down the broader debate on the topic by silencing her critics. 

"The part of the interview that I took issue with is when she's accused those who disagree with her of causing harm and violence to the trans community because what she's trying to do there is shut down a conversation on a complex topic that does need to be discussed," Shimkus said during "America's Newsroom."

Rapinoe, who will make her final World Cup appearance this month as the United States Women’s National Team heads to Australia and New Zealand, is expected to retire at the end of the 2023 season. 

But with the transition comes a "new world" with new "rules," Fox News contributor Tom Shillue argued. 

"She's entering a new world," Shillue said. "She's no longer going to be part of the sports world. She's going to be part of the pop culture world. It has its own set of rules, so she's looking to those rules because she's going to spend the rest of her future in pop culture."

Fox News' Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report. 

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