Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has expressed her shock that no male tennis players on the international tour has come out yet.
Navratilova is possibly the greatest female tennis player in history and was also one of the world’s first high profile openly gay athletes when she came out in 1981 despite the possibility of a loss of sponsorship (which did occur). However, all of these years later after she and fellow women’s tennis legend Billie Jean King paved the way, no male player has ever felt comfortable enough to come out.
“On the tennis court, I would certainly like to see more players come out”, Navratlova told Laureaus. “I can’t believe that no male player has taken that step. But with each passing celebrity or athlete coming out, it becomes less of a big deal and that’s eventually what we want it to be, for it to not matter at all,” the 58-year-old said.
Speaking about her own high profile coming out story, Navratlova says it was one of the best things that ever happened to her, and that she thinks that any current player coming out would not face the backlash that she had to endure.
“The fact that I came out affected me in a positive way — I was able to play better tennis and become the person that I am”. “I think times have changed and it doesn’t make any difference financially,” she said.
“If anything, it (coming out) helps now and I think it’s changed quite a bit. I don’t think players will have to go through anything like what I went through 30 years ago.”
Navratilova married her longtime girlfriend Julia Lemigova in December 2014 after the tennis legend proposed at the 2014 US Open.