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“Manipulated, Unheard, And Emotionally Blackmailed”–Roanoke College Women Swimmers Blast School Administration, NCAA (Part 1)

At noon on Thursday, October 5, the Hotel Roanoke’s Washington Lecture Hall was the scene of a press conference featuring ten members of the Roanoke College women’s swim team. Aided by Riley Gaines and several women’s rights groups, they sought to shine a spotlight on what they portrayed as gross negligence and “emotional blackmail” at the hands of Roanoke College administrators, the NCAA, USA Swimming, and, by extension, state and federal politicians who have allowed them to suffer in many ways.

The crowd consisted of perhaps sixty to eighty people, including representatives of local media including WSLS-10, WDBJ-7, WSET-13, WFIR, The Roanoke Times, and Cardinal News. (In an apparent rebuke to Roanoke area media, a tabloid in London, The Daily Mail, broke the story early on the morning of October 5, hours before local news outlets – including us – reported on it.)

At around 11:55, a circle of approximately fifteen swimmers and their supporters held hands in the middle of the auditorium bowed their heads for a few minutes, appearing to be in prayer.

No police were seen in the room, but at some point during the event a Hotel Roanoke security guard did enter and stayed at the back of the room, observing. In some areas, speakers addressing issues surrounding gender dysphoria trigger extremism and even violence. On April 8, former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who gained national attention for speaking against the unfairness of competing against a biological male, was attacked while trying to speak at San Francisco State University.

As reported here, a September 22-23 event in Richmond had to find a new venue twice when two sponsors buckled to threats and intimidation when investigative journalist Andy Ngo was to speak to The Virginia Council. Ngo was himself beaten by black-clad Antifa thugs in downtown Portland, Oregon in May 2021.

Thankfully, the Roanoke event was peaceful.

The 12:00 start was delayed for some reason, and around 12:15 Shannon “Danny” Clawson of Roanoke (who was arrested after refusing to leave a recent Roanoke County School Board meeting as reported here.) along with a woman with rainbows painted on both cheeks entered the room. One of the meeting organizers asked her if she has RSVP’d per press protocol. Clawson them asked if they could RSVP on the spot via their cell phones and the organizer agreed. About five or six members of the media, already being at the back of the room, approached Clawson asking for comments, phone number, etc.

A few minutes later, another event organizer approached the two and was overheard to quietly tell Clawson, “We have learned that you were arrested recently, so I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” As a part of the County School Board melee, Clawson had continually shouted “Protect Trans Kids!,” thus making dialogue and continuance of the meeting impossible. Refusing the orders to leave on July 27th, Clawson and another protestor were arrested and charged with trespassing.

In the Hotel Roanoke press conference, Clawson was calm but defiant, once again refusing the request to leave. Clawson assured the organizer no disruption would be created to which the organizer replied, “I’m holding you to that.”

Around 12:20 Riley Gaines opened the event by introducing herself before unleashing in a very direct manner: “Quite frankly I’m mad, because we’re here again. Another mediocre male athlete identifying as a woman, vying to compete on the women’s team, has turned into a woman’s record-smasher without even trying. I saw first-hand the effects of this in our NCAA championships just a year and a half ago, when we were forced to compete and change in a locker room with Lia, formerly Will, Thomas.

“Just as a reminder, Thomas went from 462nd in the men’s category to just a year later winning a national title in the women’s category. I saw the tears, and I felt the extreme discomfort in the locker room, and I heard the whispers of anger and frustration from girls just like myself, just like the swimmers on Roanoke’s team, who worked their entire lives to get to that meet. But who considered our feelings? The feelings we felt of betrayal, and belittlement, and violation, and who considered our privacy, and our safety, and our dignity, and our equal opportunities?

“How did we () not create policies to prevent this blatant injustice from happening to any other girl or woman again, because any reasonable, sensible person would be able to see the harm that was being done by disenfranchisement in a matter of seconds.

“It happened to us, and it’s happening again at Roanoke College because we have weak leaders who are fine with women becoming collateral damage if it means being seen as ‘kind’ and ‘inclusive’ and ‘compassionate.’

“[The administrators at Roanoke College] are sending a clear message to all girls and women. And it’s a message that says ‘we don’t matter.’ It’s a message that says our ability to give consent in areas of undressing is irrelevant, because we’re being ‘kind’ and ‘inclusive’ and that’s much more important. A message that we’re not worthy of recognition. A message that we simply exist to validate the feelings and identify of males, and then a message if we don’t do so with a big smile on our face then we’re hateful bigots.”

As if Gaines were a prophet, even before the press conference, Roanoke City Democrat Councilmembers Joe Cobb, Peter Volosin, and Luke Priddy released an open letter entitled “Hate Has No Place in Roanoke,” which WSLS-10 promoted on its website, slamming the press conference. In it, the politicians insinuated that the Roanoke College women swimmers and their allies are “haters” by not wanting to compete with biological males and daring to speak up publicly.

Part 2 of this story will be published shortly with direct quotations from members of the Roanoke College women’s swim team.

–Scott Dreyer




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