By Kathleen Joyce
Published March 05, 2019
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova apologized after she was criticized for recently saying in an oped that it would be “cheating” to allow transgender women to compete in women’s sporting events.
Navratilova wrote a column on her website weeks after the LGBTQ organization Athlete Ally announced it was severing ties with her following the comments. The nonprofit said they were also removing Navratilova as their organization’s ambassador and from their advisory board.
The Czech-born tennis star, who’s considered one of the greatest female tennis players in history, wrote that her initial comments were aimed to “encourage a more scientific, rather than emotional, conversation and to search for a solution that would work better than current arrangements.”
“Well, I certainly stumbled into a hornets’ nest,” she wrote. “The support I normally get from ‘my people’, the LGBT community, was replaced by a barrage of quite nasty personal attacks and I was dropped [jettisoned is a better word] as an ambassador for Athlete Ally."
The 18-time Grand Slam tennis singles winner said she was sorry for using the word “cheat.”
“I’m sorry for that because I certainly was not suggesting that transgender athletes in general are cheats,” she wrote. “I attached the label to a notional case in which someone cynically changes gender, perhaps temporarily, to gain a competitive advantage.”
Last month, Navratilova wrote in an op-ed for the Sunday Times asserting that transgender women competing in women’s sporting events would be "cheating" because the athletes would have an “unfair physical advantages.”
"A man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires," she wrote. “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.”
Navratilova concluded her latest personal op-ed by saying she didn’t “have all the answers” but wanted people to have a conversation.
“Needless to say, I have always and will always be a champion of democracy, equal rights, human rights and full protection under the law for everyone,” she wrote. “When I talk about sports and rules that must be fair, I am not trying to exclude trans people from living a full, healthy life. And I am certainly not advocating violence against trans people, as has been suggested. All I am trying to do is to make sure girls and women who were born female are competing on as level a playing field as possible within their sport.