Oberlin Women's Lacrosse Coach Reveals She Was "Burned At The Stake" For Openly Supporting Same-Sex Sports

Coach Kim Russell publicly opposed William "Lia" Thomas's participation in women's collegiate swim, and soon after, she was heavily reprimanded and threatened by her department and many of her athletes.

By Gina Florio3 min read
Screenshot 2023-08-29 at 4.11.27 PM

In recent years, there has been a huge increase in men competing in women's sports after they suddenly adopt women's pronouns and grow out their hair (and maybe take a few hormone blockers as well). There have been some women who are refusing to accept this new development in American society, such as Riley Gaines and Paula Scanlan, two college swimmers who openly opposed William "Lia" Thomas's participation in women's swim at the University of Pennsylvania. Coach Kim Russell, head lacrosse coach for the women's team at Oberlin College, also showed her support for protecting same-sex sports, but she was swiftly reprimanded by her superiors.

Oberlin Women's Lacrosse Coach Reveals She Was "Burned at the Stake" for Openly Supporting Same-Sex Sports

Russell says she was "blown away" at the fact that Thomas, a man who calls himself a trans woman, was allowed to compete in NCAA swimming. In 2022, Thomas became the first trans-identified male to secure an NCAA swimming title by winning the 500-yard freestyle championship. Thomas finished the race in 4 minutes, 33.24 seconds, leading by almost two seconds. Emma Weyant came in second place, and Russell congratulated her on social media, calling her the "real winner" of the race.

One of her lacrosse players sent the post in an email to Russell's athletic director, and that's when her story of being "burned at the stake" begins. In a short documentary for Independent Women's Forum (IWF), Russell told her account for the first time. After the athlete complained about Russell's social media repost, the "school administrators called her into a series of disciplinary meetings."

They told Russell that her beliefs went against Oberlin College's values, asking her what she was thinking and telling her that she was downright wrong. People were saying "a trans woman is a woman," and they were appalled that she didn't agree with this sentiment. In another subsequent meeting, they told her to write a letter of apology to her team as well as to the athletic department.

"I hope you feel remorse for it," said Natalie Winkelfoos, Associate VP for Athletics.

Russell started to write an apology but then quickly decided not to. "I'm not sorry," she said definitively. She was willing to have a conversation with anyone about the topic in good faith and explain where she was coming from. She simply thinks that women should only compete against other biological women, but this resulted in her team calling her "transgressive" and "transphobic."

Next, she was told to prepare for yet another meeting, and this time, she met with her entire team, the Title IX director, the diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) representative for her department, and the Title IX director of diversity for the entire college. She recalls feeling "very dark energy" in the room. She had prepared herself emotionally because she knew what was coming. Russell said she felt like she was "stoned and hanged" all at the same time. The "mob mentality" took over the whole room, and a few athletes on the lacrosse team spoke about how upset they were with Russell. "That meeting turned into anybody being able to say anything that they didn't like about my coaching style or my assistant's coaching—anything," Russell recalled.

One of her players said she wasn't really giving a true apology and was just justifying what she said the first time. "I just feel like I would like a little more accountability," the athlete said, because there was such a large number of LGBT students at Oberlin. "Your feminism has to work for everybody and be inclusive of everybody," another athlete said.

They finished out the season even though Russell constantly felt like she was walking on eggshells. She was then handed a letter (just given a hard copy, no email), copied to the assistant athletic director, director of Human Resources, and legal counsel. It said she needed to change her behavior immediately. She responded in writing and demanded to know what she needed to change, and that if she was going to be fired, to just fire her now.

"It is scientific that males and females are different."

"I believe that there are so many people who are afraid of losing their jobs that they are going to do what they need to do to keep working," Russell said. But she is maintaining her beliefs and has refused to back down. She points out that when a student is upset with a coach or professor at college these days, they go straight to the administrators to complain. No chance for a conversation. This results in coaches or professors getting canceled or fired.

"It is scientific that males and females are different," Russell declared. "Period." She also doesn't believe men should be in women's locker rooms. "Where's the #MeToo movement now?" Russell said. "If I don't speak out, who is going to speak?"

Many people have come out to support Russell and her bravery. In today's age, people risk losing everything just by stating simple facts like men and women are biologically different. But we need more women like Russell to take a stand, because the more people play along with the charade of men competing against women (and stealing medals and opportunities from them), the more likely it will be that men continue to infiltrate women's sports.

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