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Askren: Riley Gaines’ presence at CSU violates Principles of Community

Collegian | Aria Paul
Attendees at the Riley Gaines talk, hosted by Colorado State University’s student chapter of Turning Point USA and The Riley Gaines Center at the Leadership Institute, hold up posters and signs for a photo April 3. “Defend your daughters; defend your kids,” Gaines said.

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Hate has no place in sports, no matter how divisive they may seem.


As a university that literally has inclusion, respect and social justice listed in its Principles of Community, Colorado State University has failed its student population by allowing Riley Gaines to speak with hate and disrespect to those who would listen.

Gaines is a former University of Kentucky swimmer who was relatively successful during her time as an athlete there. In 2022, she was the Southeastern Conference Women’s Swimming and Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Gaines also consistently competed in the NCAA championships, most notably in the 200-yard freestyle, in which she tied for fifth against Lia Thomas, a transgender athlete.

Since tying for fifth in the NCAAs, Gaines has made a postgraduate career speaking out against transgender athletes in sports and “reclaiming feminism.” Gaines has now formed a section of the organization The Leadership Institute in her name — The Riley Gaines Center.

“By allowing Gaines to speak to students at CSU, our university is forgetting all about the Principles of Community that are designed to make students feel supported.”

This organization enables Gaines to travel to many different universities and speak her so-called “truth” about how she was robbed of her NCAA success because the NCAA allowed Thomas to compete in the women’s division.

The decision to allow trans athletes to compete in their chosen gender category has stirred a lot of controversy within the collegiate sports community. Many people believe allowing trans athletes to compete in sports creates an unequal disadvantage for cisgender athletes.

“This isn’t just a women’s issue,” Gaines says on her website. “It’s a freedom issue. It affects men and women and girls and boys because men don’t want to see women robbed of their opportunities or put in danger. And every person has the right to speak the truth.”

For some — Gaines in particular — this decision is destroying women’s sports. However, truth be told, it’s a controversial topic that doesn’t have an ideal solution. Despite this, there is an opportunity for standards to be set and support for the queer community to be publicly put into place.

Clearly, at CSU, those standards weren’t a priority. On April 3, Gaines arrived on campus, and with the help of CSU’s chapter of Turning Point USA and The Leadership Institute, she hosted an event to “reclaim feminism,” according to the posters plastered around campus. This event was just one of many in her cross-country tour speaking at colleges and universities.

By allowing Gaines to speak to students at CSU, the university is forgetting all about the Principles of Community that are designed to make students feel supported. Gaines actively spoke out against the trans community, and other speakers at the event could be heard saying that the devil was coming out through trans people.


“This is the devil’s work,” Colorado Rep. Richard Holtorf said after Gaines’ speech. “This is Satan trying to make all of us confused. … (This is) the woke, transgender — and I call it a ‘transgender cult.’ This is a cult now; this is a cultlike following in this country that is being peddled and sold just like all of the other cults.”

This kind of event being held on CSU’s campus is extremely disappointing on an administrative level. Allowing this kind of speech is shocking and clearly doesn’t follow the Principles of Community.

Seeing the lack of support from CSU is incredibly disappointing. Yes, free speech should be allowed on our campus, and as a journalist, I understand the importance of the First Amendment. However, when that First Amendment right is being abused to spread hatred of those in the queer community, it’s a cause for concern.

The event itself wasn’t heavily publicized; the majority of the audience supported Gaines and her ideas. At the end of the event, when Gaines prompted a question-and-answer session, there was no one in the crowd who had a question or statement speaking out against the things Gaines said during the event.

What was even more shocking was the CSU athletes who showed up in support of Gaines. Members of the CSU swim and dive team, volleyball team and tennis teams were seen in attendance and even publicly posted their support for Gaines on Instagram.

All athletes are entitled to their own opinions, but supporting someone who speaks so strongly against the queer and trans community so publicly is astonishing. Allowing Gaines to continue to speak against those in this community creates an unsafe environment for trans athletes to play the sports they love.

Reach Emma Askren at or on Twitter @emma_askren.

View Comments (11)
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About the Contributor
Emma Askren
Emma Askren, Sports Editor
Emma Askren, alongside Damon Cook, is the fall 2023 sports editor for The Collegian. She began working at The Collegian during her first year in the fall of 2022, when she covered the swim and dive team as well as anything sports-related. She is currently a sophomore at Colorado State University, where she is majoring in journalism and media communication and double minoring in Spanish and sports management. During her first year, she joined the rowing team, began working as a reporter for The Collegian and working at the Student Recreation Center. Askren applied to CSU as a journalism major, knowing she wanted to combine her passion for sports and writing to create a fulfilling career. Upon realizing that Rocky Mountain Student Media was hiring for first-years, she jumped at the opportunity to become a writer for The Collegian. While working for the sports desk, Askren has had the opportunity to write about hockey, logging, whitewater rafting and the importance of women in sports. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, she seeks to break the status quo and become a successful sports journalist following graduation. Following a year as a sports reporter, Askren became a co-editor for the sports desk alongside Cook. Together the duo seeks to create a new and improved sports desk that caters to all readers of The Collegian and beyond.

Comments (11)

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  • B

    BrianApr 28, 2024 at 8:24 am

    What a joke of an article. Trans rights to mutilate themselves or otherwise dress in ways that are contrary to societal norms doesn’t give them the right to compete with the opposite biological sex. This is very dangerous – we now have men showering with women (who don’t want this), and people like you thinking it is perfectly fine, and even their right.

  • T

    The RiddlerApr 19, 2024 at 5:38 pm

    If Riley Gaines isn’t anti-trans, then riddle me this …

    — Why didn’t she immediately denounce Rep. Richard Holtorf’s very anti-trans language at the CSU event? For those of you in the audience who claim to not be anti-trans, why didn’t any you stand up against what is obviously hateful rhetoric toward people we literally attend class with?

    — Why does she feel the need to demonize all trans people as “dangerous to women”? Again, these are people we attend class with everyday. Do you feel in danger when you sit next to a trans person in class? Trying to demonize every trans woman as a hidden rapist is how you get trans people killed. Knock it off.

    — Telling trans people they’re not welcome in sports is literally an attempt to erase them from a significant part of American culture. Think about all the reasons we love sports as participants or as parents, and then ask yourselves why you’d deny that anyone. And don’t give me any garbage about “we’re not telling them they can’t watch.” When you tell someone they’re not good enough to be in the club, being told “but you can watch” is a lame consolation prize.

    Big ups to the thousands and thousands of CSU students who saw this BS event for what it truly was and didn’t attend.

    • K

      KristopherApr 22, 2024 at 8:05 am

      At no point did she say that trans people cannot participate in sports, if you are born male then its as simple as you compete against other males. If you are born female you compete against other females. Regardless of the crap they are feeding you, we are not built the same. It’s common sense, unfortunately from my experience with the world we live in today, common sense is lost in unfathomable numbers. As a female she has a right to feel comfortable in the locker room, so does everyone’s daughters, and having men in their locker rooms, exposing themselves, whether ill intention or not is not okay, I can only speak for myself here, but I have no problem with the trans community, I have a son that is trans for the record, you be you, and I’ll be me, the problem is that there are members of the trans community that feel they need to shove it down all our throats and feel that they need to be justified by everyone around them. I have a hard time believing that there thousands of students that didn’t attend because of the reasons you stated, events like this normally bring both sides and your side was non-existent, when she had time for one question at the end, the only question she wanted to field was from the opposition, no one raised their hand, where was the people in support of your stance… like I stated in my response to this article, there are allowed to be two sides to everything and we are allowed to coexist, we as humans will not always agree and being able to talk is the key to this coexisting. Males and females are not the same, were are and were never meant to be, what is the problem with men having their own sports and woman having theirs? Why do we have to cross the line of biology and common sense to justify the way someone feels, or to help build their confidence? I just read an article this morning about a trans track athlete competing against girls, he placed 2nd against girls and based off his times, had he competed against the boys he should have competed against, he would have placed in the 40’s. Where is this fair to the girls that are out to compete against other girls of their same biology and athletic level, again we are different. This is the direct result of the participation trophy era, people can’t handle loosing anymore, and so they have to find away to extort the system to get the feeling that they are better than they really are, you want to be better, then you put in the time and hard work, unfortunately no one wants to do that anymore, too may people just want everything handed to them, sorry but you are not entitled to anything you don’t earn!

  • K

    KristopherApr 19, 2024 at 7:30 am

    This article is an absolute joke, I was in this audience, there are 2 sides to this, and you are speaking out for the side that wasn’t “supported” but the other side that is for keeping trans athletes out of woman’s sports was supported, and clearly by the overwhelming majority in that audience is the majority, they were supported by Riley, so where is the violation? At no point did she speak out against the trans community, she simple does not believe that it is right for them to infringe upon the rights of woman, as title IX was put in place to protect. She made several points that she is not against the trans community for just being trans, just don’t cross the line and everything is good. That line isn’t just being crossed, its being violated to an extent that is beyond ridiculous and against all common sense! This is just another case of the over sensitive getting there feelings hurt, just because not everyone agrees with what they believe. I am sick of this BS of forcing your beliefs down everyone’s throat, 2 sides are aloud and differences of opinion are aloud, but to make up this crap that she violated the principles of community, because she wasn’t there in support of your stance is absolute garbage.

  • M

    MegApr 18, 2024 at 10:55 am

    Riley is a hero!

  • L

    LCM JRApr 18, 2024 at 9:27 am

    Emma, freedom to alter your sex does not give anyone the RIGHT to then demand acceess to events that violate concepts of fundamental fairness and equality.

  • J

    JimApr 18, 2024 at 12:18 am

    I have nothing against transgender individuals.
    Still, if they were born male, they should compete with males. Its not fair to female athletes. Does a sex change rearrange their genes and chromosomes from male to female? The transgender individuals should not push this.
    Transgenders have to realize when to stop.

  • B

    BeckyApr 17, 2024 at 6:37 pm

    Riley Gaines has every right to speak on CSU’s campus. This trend of allowing transgender people to compete in women’s sports is extremely dangerous and totally unfair. If you don’t support Riley Gaines then don’t attend the speeches or talks. All college students should hear both sides so they can decide for themselves what is right and wrong.

    • S

      SherryApr 18, 2024 at 11:49 am

      Exactly. It seems that if the media doesn’t agree with the agenda then it’s a hate crime. What happened to freedom of speech

  • C

    Chris WasonApr 17, 2024 at 9:26 am

    So Riley Gaines’s feelings of not being “supported” don’t matter ?

  • P

    Polly M.Apr 17, 2024 at 8:44 am

    Just a thought, do you think the athletes who showed support for Ms. Gaines did so because allowing transgender female athletes to compete against biological female athetes gives the transgender female athlete an unfair advantage?

    I fully support people living as their authentic selves regardless of gender identity; however there are distinct physiological differences between biological male and biological female individuals that don’t change because a biological male defines themself as female. These differences do give an advantage in sports to the transgender female, which is what I believe Ms. Gaines is speaking out against and agreeing with her doesn’t necessarily make someone transphobic.