Right-wing media are attacking LGBTQ Olympians competing at the 2020 Tokyo Games, including by misgendering, deadnaming, and calling individual athletes a “fascist woketard,” “pudgy, out of shape,” and “an anti-American piece of trash.”
According to Outsports, there are at least 182 openly LGBTQ athletes at this year’s Olympics, “more than triple the number who participated at the 2016 Rio Games.” Several of these athletes have been subjected to right-wing media harassment, including New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, U.S. women’s soccer team player Megan Rapinoe, Canadian soccer player Quinn, and American track and field athlete Raven Saunders.
Right-wing media have spent years denigrating prominent LGBTQ athletes and have recently focused the majority of their rage toward trans athletes in particular. A Media Matters study found that Fox News aired at least 126 discussions about transgender athletes from January 2019 through March 2021, including 72 discussions that aired in the first three months of 2021 -- more than the number of segments in 2019 and 2020 combined.
The right-wing villainization of trans athletes has fueled conservative lawmakers’ efforts to ban trans people from competing in athletic events that align with their gender identity. In the U.S., laws prohibiting trans athletes from competing in youth, high school, and college sports have been introduced in at least 36 states and have become law (or otherwise been enacted) in nine others. Two of these laws have been blocked by federal judges. Anti-trans advocates have also called on the International Olympic Committee to ban trans athletes, who have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since at least 2004.
Right-wing media and figures disparage LGBTQ Olympians
Right-wing news outlets and prominent conservative figures have relentlessly mocked Hubbard, Rapinoe, Saunders, and Quinn. Here are some of the most extreme attacks on each athlete:
New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard competed in the 87kg Olympic weightlifting competition on August 2, making her the first openly trans woman to compete in the Olympics. Notably, after the competition, Hubbard said, “I’d particularly like to thank the IOC, for, I think, really affirming their commitment to the principles of Olympism and establishing that sport is something for all people. It is inclusive. It is accessible."
Right-wing outlets attacked Hubbard before and after her event, claiming that she “deserves to be humiliated.” (In accordance with the Trans Journalists Association style guide, Media Matters has replaced incorrect references to Hubbard’s gender with the correct ones in brackets in the quotes below.)
- In a segment called “Olympic Failure,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham misgendered trans women competing at the Olympics and asserted that Hubbard was “shamelessly taking a spot from a female competitor.”
- The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh repeatedly misgendered Hubbard, called her “pudgy, out of shape,” and claimed that she “deserves to be humiliated in this fashion because this is cheating.”
- In an online opinion piece, Daily Wire Editor Ian Haworth misgendered Hubbard and asserted, “It’s crucial that those who share the delusion that transgender men are women — specifically in the field of athleticism — are forced to awake from this fantasy.”
- PJ Media posted an article that misidentified Hubbard and asserted that her presence at the Olympics was a psychological operation, saying, “If you can be made to believe that a big strong [woman] belongs in the Women’s Division, then you can be made to believe anything.”
- Right-wing pundit Jesse Kelly tweeted, “Imagine switching genders to win a medal and then blowing it and now you’re stuck being a woman for the rest of your life.”
U.S. women’s soccer team forward Megan Rapinoe helped lead her team to win a bronze medal over Australia on August 5. Rapinoe is a prominent advocate for LGBTQ rights and has faced widespread condemnation from conservative news outlets in the past. At the beginning of the Tokyo Games, the U.S. women's soccer team, along with several other teams, kneeled at the start of their match “as collective statements against racism and other forms of discrimination.”
Prominent conservative figures and right-wing outlets attacked the three-time Olympian, with former President Donald Trump saying, “The woman with the purple hair played terribly and spends too much time thinking about Radical Left politics and not doing her job!”
- Fox News guest Michael Loftus claimed that Rapinoe and U.S. track athlete Gwen Berry are “locker room poison” and said that “whenever an American doesn't [win a] medal, I can just blame it on Megan Rapinoe ... and Gwen Berry. It’s like, yeah, you deserved it. I found myself rooting for Sweden the other day. When Sweden beat U.S. Soccer, I was like, yeah, good for them.”
- Ed Vitagliano, a radio host for one of the extreme anti-LGBTQ groups American Family Association, said, “When the women's soccer team took a knee, I stopped rooting for them. I want them to lose.”
- RedState posted an article asserting, “Rapinoe’s behavior has been nothing but awful throughout her time in the spotlight, causing many to want as much humble pie shoved down her throat as humanly possible.”
- Right-wing figure Candace Owens called Rapinoe “an anti-American piece of trash who does not represent our country, anywhere, ever.” She also said she “deserves to lose.”
- Right-wing pundit Carmine Sabia tweeted, “Watching Megan Rapinoe crying after she lost to Team Canada, with a transgender player, is fantastic. Where are those cocky smirks and poses?”
Shot-putter Raven Saunders, who won a silver medal at the 2020 Olympics, made waves for her split-dyed hair, incredible performance, and gesture on the podium to represent “all people who are oppressed.” The gesture was being probed “as a potential breach of rules banning protests on medal podiums” but was suspended when her mother Clarissa Saunders died. Saunders tweeted, “My mama was a great woman and will forever live through me.”
Right-wing pundits attacked Saunders during her time at the games, zeroing in on her protest and saying it “wrecks the games.”
- Fox News’ Ingraham rebuked Saunders' protest and said, “The rules are the rules, but you know, they’re looking for little loopholes. But I think it wrecks the games.”
- Fox News’ Tomi Lahren attacked Saunders and other Olympians who protested at the games, saying their protests are a “attention-seeking display” and “crybaby, whiny, bratty stunts.”
- Breitbart’s John Nolte called Saunders a “moron” and asserted, “These woketards are such woketards; they’re just making shit up now. At least she won a Silver.”
- Blaze Media published an article that criticized Saunders for twerking in between throws, writing, “While it will come as no surprise that many observers found Saunders' twerk distasteful and inappropriate, it also may not be a shock that leftists loved her show of impropriety.”
- White nationalist sympathizer Michelle Malkin asserted that Saunders is “a sorry example of Olympic competition. You've got one job: win. If you can't cut it, find a different calling, and share your troubles with a therapist, not the world.”
Canadian soccer player Quinn and their team beat Sweden in the finals to win gold on August 6. Quinn -- who is the first openly trans and nonbinary person to win an Olympic medal -- reflected on their groundbreaking performance in an August 2 interview with Canadian Broadcast Corp. saying, “If I can allow kids to play the sports they love, that's my legacy and that's what I'm here for.”
Right-wing media outlets attacked Quinn for competing in the Olympics and repeatedly misgendered and deadnamed them.
- Newsmax host Emma Rechenberg misgendered Quinn, and conservative social media personality Ashley St. Clair said Quinn and other trans athletes’ presence at the games “is an attack on women.”
- Owen Strachan, a senior fellow with the extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council, misgendered Quinn in a Christian Post article in which he asserted, “In 2021, the ‘women’ we’re watching aren’t, in different cases, even women. Truly, confusion is everywhere, and pagan ideology is on the move.”
- Several other right-wing outlets deadnamed and/or misgendered Quinn, including Fox News, Daily Wire, and Breitbart.