The Beijing Olympics will be remembered for a lot of things -- controversies, especially. But one of them, amazingly, was not of its host country's making. Even halfway around the world in an authoritarian country, the sports community can't escape the West's raging debate over transgender athletes. A record 35 people who identify openly as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender are competing in this year's Games, leading one radical group to brag that acceptance has arrived. Here at home, conservatives would beg to disagree.
No amount of puff pieces on the LGBT presence at the Games is going to change most Americans' minds on what they see as one of the biggest threats to sports: an unlevel playing field. American figure skater Timothy LuDuc, who grabbed headlines for using gender-neutral pronouns, is one of the firsts to declare himself "nonbinary," raising new alarm bells about where the Olympics -- and the rest of the world -- is heading.
Already, Beijing is breaking dangerous new ground on a subject that most Americans are all too familiar with. For the last several weeks, the debate over biological boys competing in girls' sports has reached a fevered pitch, as male swimmer Lia Thomas helped crystallize the debate by taking over the Ivy League meet last Month. Now, as more than a dozen teammates formally protest his spot on the University of Pennsylvania's women's team, the debate has ignited nationwide.
It's even making its way into a U.S. senatorial campaign, where conservative stalwart Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) is tapping into parents and women's frustrations by running a six-digit ad campaign focused solely on the threat to girls' sports. The spot, called "Coach," puts the spotlight squarely on Thomas -- with pictures of him before and after his hair is grown out. "Meet William Thomas, ranked number 462 in Men's swimming," the ad starts. "Meet Lia Thomas, ranked number one in women's swimming. Only one problem, it's the same person. Some people are afraid to talk about it," Hartzler narrates. "Not me. I'm Vicky Hartzler. I ran and coached girl's track, and I won't look away while woke liberals destroy women's sports. Women's sports are for women, not men pretending to be women. I'm Vicky Hartzler. I approve this message."
The commercial took the media by surprise -- many remarking that it's the first time this "lightning-rod issue" has appeared in a Senate spot. For Hartzler, though, it's just another good example why she belongs in retiring Senator Roy Blunt's (R-Mo.) seat. She understands that this issue resonates with everyday Americans, and while some people might not want to touch it, she will always go where her principles guide her. Even if she's standing alone.
Fortunately, she isn't standing alone -- not on this issue, and not in her Senate race. After taking his time to consider the Republican candidates, Hartzler got a shot in the arm when Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) announced over the weekend that he was endorsing her in the GOP primary. "For almost a year I've been asked who I intend to vote for in the Missouri Senate primary this August," the senator said on Saturday. "Well, I've made up my mind. I'll be supporting Vicky Hartzler. Vicky has the integrity, the heart, and the toughness to represent Missouri... She is unafraid to stand up for conservative values, and she is exactly who Missouri needs in the U.S. Senate," Hawley said. "I can't wait to work with her."
Hartzler, who faces former Gov. Eric Greitens and Attorney General Eric Schmitt in the primary, was with Hawley in St. Charles when he made the announcement, telling the press, "I'm so thrilled and so grateful. He's such a champion for our conservative values in Washington and has been such a powerful voice for what Missouri believes in," Hartzler said in an interview. "People trust Josh. They respect him as a true conservative at the forefront fighting. And for him to recognize I'm that way as well, that I'm going to be a fighter ... I think it's going to go a long ways."
Let's hope so. The U.S. Senate could use someone like Vicky, who never compromises on what's right -- no matter which way the political winds are blowing.