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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri women’s basketball alum Sophie Cunningham is regarded as one of the best players in the program’s history, but the current Phoenix Mercury guard is known in WNBA circles to cause a stir for her opinions.

On Friday, Cunningham retweeted a tweet from CBS Sports host Josh Pate, that protests Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who is a swimmer for Penn, being the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship.

Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships.

“Female collegiate athletes deserve so much better than this,” Pate’s tweet said.

Shortly after sharing that tweet, Cunningham issued a statement saying that she stands with “all people, especially my fellow athletes.”

“We all have a place in this world to compete and I hope we are able to grant everyone that opportunity fairly,” Cunningham said in a tweet that has the comments turned off. Cunningham also did not undo the retweet.

Many people have been debating whether transgender athletes should be able to participate in sports with the gender that they identify with. There is also a movement in state legislation as many politicians work to make youth transgender athletes play with the gender that they were born with or completely ban them from youth sports.

In Kansas, KSHSAA provides guidlines on how schools should determine if a transgender athlete can play based on gender identity used for school records, medical documentation and potential “gender identity-related advantages”. All disputes and appeals are handled by KSHSAA. In April 2021, A bill that would ban transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s sports was vetoed by Kansas governor Laura Kelly.

In Missouri, MSHSAA says all transgender athletes must submit an application. Transgender boys who have not begun hormone therapy may participate in boys’ sports, and must do so if they have begun hormone therapy. Transgender girls can participate only in boys’ sports unless they have engaged in hormone therapy for one year. Legislation preventing athletes to participate with their gender identity was introdced in 2021 but did not pass.

There is also Layshia Clarendon in the WNBA, who identifies as transgender and nonbinary, who played for the Minnesota Lynx last season.

As the debate continues, prominent female athletes like Cunningham and women’s sports leagues like the WNBA will be relied on for their views and actions towards transgender women as these women look to compete at a higher level.

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