Athlete Ally, a New York-based group supporting LGBTQ athletes succeed, denounced recent comments by out tennis legend Martina Navratilova and cut ties with the sports star.
The move came after Navratilova accused trans women competing in women’s sports of “cheating” in a Sunday Times op-ed.
In a lengthy statement, the group made clear it prioritizes the needs of trans athletes facing a range of bigotry and accusations.
“Athlete Ally unequivocally stands on the side of trans athletes and their right to access and compete in sport free from discrimination,” the statement reads. “Martina Navratilova’s recent comments on trans athletes are transphobic, based on a false understanding of science and data, and perpetuate dangerous myths that lead to the ongoing targeting of trans people through discriminatory laws, hateful stereotypes and disproportionate violence."
The group’s statement said it only affiliates with those dedicated to rooting transphobia out of the sports world. Navratilova has been removed from its Advisory Board and as an Athlete Ally Ambassador.
Navratilova, who came out in 1981 and for years remained one of the most prominent lesbian celebrities in the world, had previously engaged in an online scuffle with trans track cyclist Rachel McKinnon over the issue.
She wrote then that “you can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women.” Eventually, Navratilova deleted the offending tweet and promised to “educate” herself before weighing in on the topic again.
That apparently culminated in the op-ed published this week.
“To put the argument at its most basic: 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,” Navratilova 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," she wrote. "It would not be fair.”
McKinnon said the piece showed Navratilova going “FULL transphobe.” Athlete Ally clearly agrees.
“Trans women athletes aren’t looking to take over women’s sport,” the statement from Athlete Ally continues. “They are women, and want to compete in the sport they love, just as any other athlete would. In fact, they’re largely underrepresented. Trans athletes have been allowed to openly compete in the Olympics since 2003, and yet no transgender athlete has ever gone to the Olympics. Professional trans women athletes are extremely rare.”
The group previously invited Navratilova to be an ambassador in 2011, and in its statement called her a “trailblazer for LGBTQ people in sports.” But the recent comments clearly show opposition to the organization’s inclusive vision.
“Martina’s latest statements stand in stark contrast to that vision, and to our core beliefs and values as an organization," the organization wrote. “The trans community is under attack, and we firmly stand opposed to any and all people who perpetuate attacks against them—regardless of who they are or their accolades."
"To spread misinformation is to create a ripple effect of bias and discrimination that restricts trans people from living their lives fully, and endangers their health, safety and livelihood.”
Athlete Ally officials approached Navratilova over her comments last year but never heard back, the statement says.