Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who’s faced criticism for anti-transgender comments over the past year, has been revealed as one of the signers of a letter supporting Idaho’s law barring trans females from competing in women’s and girls’ interscholastic sports.
The letter is from a group called Save Women’s Sports and was sent last week to the board of governors of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Outsports reports. The NCAA, which has already announced its opposition to the law, is scheduled this week to consider other actions regarding it, including potentially moving the March Madness men’s basketball tournament from Boise. The first and second rounds are set to be held there next year.
“We urge you to reject all calls to boycott and bully Idaho for preserving fair competition for women and girls across Idaho,” the letter states. It asserts, “We strongly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to compete, but true athletic parity for women demands that women’s sports be protected for biological females.”
Save Women’s Sports posted the letter online without identifying most of the 309 signatories; it named four of them in a press release. Some others were identified in an article on The Federalist, a conservative website. But Outsports obtained a copy of the letter showing the full signatory list, with Navratilova at the top, and the site posted it Sunday.
Navratilova, who is a lesbian, last year wrote a column in which she said allowing trans women to compete against cisgender women was “insane and cheating.” She apologized to some degree in a blog post, but in the same post she wrote that if “everyone were included, women’s sports as we know them would cease to exist.”
Those who oppose allowing trans women to participate in women’s sports argue that trans women have an inherent advantage over cis women. Others respond that this is not so and that many other factors, such as body size and training, can give advantages to a variety of athletes, either cis or trans.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed the anti-trans bill into law in March. In addition to barring trans females from competing with cis ones at Idaho public schools and state universities, it could subject athletes to invasive medical examinations in some instances. It is being challenged in federal court by two female athletes, one trans and one cis, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a “statement of interest” in that case supporting the Idaho law.
After Navratilova, the highest-profile signers of the letter are Donna de Varona, a swimmer who won Olympic medals in the 1960s, and Sandra Bucha-Kerscher, a champion marathon swimmer. At least five other signers also endorsed a friend-of-the-court brief in a recent Supreme Court case, arguing against moves to define anti-trans discrimination as sex discrimination, according to Outsports. In that case, however, the high court ruled in June that sex discrimination includes bias based on gender identity and sexual orientation and that those types of discrimination are therefore banned by federal civil rights law — although two of its other recent rulings opened the door to broad religious exemptions from that law.
Outsports sought comment from both Navratilova and Save Women’s Sports but did not receive responses.