Former college swimmers Riley Gaines and Paula Scanlan faced a challenging situation as they joined Texas Governor Greg Abbott for the ceremonial signing of the ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’. The bill, aimed at preventing biological men from competing against female athletes in Texas colleges and universities, has garnered attention and sparked protests.
As the governor and athletes gathered at the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in Denton, around 250 protesters were outside expressing their opposition. Scanlan, a former University of Pennsylvania swimmer, reported that some of the protesters spat and yelled at them, even blocking exits as they tried to leave. Gaines, a 12-time NCAA All-American swimmer, added that bottles were thrown and profanities were hurled at children, necessitating the intervention of law enforcement for protection.
Videos captured the protesters chanting slogans like ‘trans rights are human rights’ and displaying placards and transgender pride flags. Police officers escorted young girls out of the building amidst the shouting and waving of protesters. Despite the chaos, Scanlan took to Twitter to express her relief at being able to exit the event safely. She emphasized that their work in Texas is not finished and hopes other states will follow suit.
Macy Petty, a volleyball player from Lee University who also attended the event, described the protesters as extremely hostile. Michelle Evans, the leader of the Independent Women’s Network’s Austin chapter, referred to them as ‘rabid’. Evans herself claimed to have been assaulted while observing the protest outside the building. Law enforcement intervened, and the suspect was reportedly issued a ticket for misdemeanor assault.
Governor Abbott addressed the protests during a press conference following the event. He expressed his wish that the protesters could have peacefully listened to what Scanlan and Gaines had to say. He acknowledged that they should not have had to endure such treatment and vowed to prevent similar incidents in the future.
The ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’, also known as SB 15, will take effect in Texas on September 1. This legislation follows a similar law signed by Governor Abbott in 2021, which requires public high school teams to be designated based on students’ sex assigned at birth. At least 20 other states have passed comparable legislation to protect women’s sports.