Martina Navratilova Apologizes for Transphobic Comment, but Still Doesn't Get It

Martina Navratilova at a news conference in 2010Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Mila Madison

Considered one of the best female tennis players of all time, Martina Navratilova is apologizing again after having written a controversial essay in The Sunday Times last month when she called transgender athletes “cheats” for competing in sports according to the gender in which they identify. The essay was written after having apologized for making similar comments via Twitter two months prior.

This weekend, Navratilova attempted to further the discussion in a post made to her blog, where she apologized for calling transgender athletes “cheats.”

“I know that my use of the word ‘cheat’ caused particular offence among the transgender community,“ Navratilova wrote. “I’m sorry for that because I certainly was not suggesting that transgender athletes in general are cheats.”

Aside from the apology, Navratilova proceeded to make matters worse as she found herself wondering what she did wrong and how she ended up being on the same side as anti-LGBTQIA activists and news organizations.

“Well, I certainly stumbled into a hornets’ nest. 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,” Navratilova wrote. “Conversely, some publications and people that I am at odds with on most issues, such as the Washington Examiner (gasp) and James Woods (double gasp), were strongly supportive of my opinions. Those are unwelcome bedfellows. So where did I go wrong? Or did I go wrong?”

The former tennis star also referred to Dr. Renee Richards, a transgender tennis player who she had beaten, and who was also once her coach.

Photo: YouTube

“When Dr. Renee Richards won the legal judgment that allowed her to compete on the women’s tennis tour in 1977, it was a one-off case,” Navratilova wrote. “There were more individual cases after that, but not that many. What we have now are different rules that apply but apparently many of those rules are neither based on science nor reason.”

Navratilova then claimed she would “always be a champion of democracy, equal rights, human rights and full protection under the law” as she took offense to being called a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF). At the same time she referred to cisgender women as “born female,” a term often used by the radical group.

“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,” Navratilova wrote. “While there were some unfair articles and responses and name calling (a TERF? Seriously people?!?), the support I have gotten has been quite overwhelming. Some in the open, some from the ‘closet’. Fairness has been my mantra all my life. And that will not change, no matter the name calling. The communists tried to shut me up 45 years ago and look how that worked out...”

Navratilova continues to challenge rules pertaining to transgender athletes that were implemented by the International Olympic Comitte (IOC), saying many of which are not “based on science nor reason.” She is calling on the sports community at all levels to have a “debate’ on what she refers to as the “ transgender problem.”

Comments (5)
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I agree with Poptart...we must recognize that trans women definitely have physical advantages over cis women. That doesn't mean that trans women will always beat cis women, but trans women are normally going to be bigger, stronger, and faster in most cases. I feel sorry for Martina because I'm absolutely certain that she's not transphobic. By the way before I get attacked I'm a 50 year old trans woman myself.


I think it's important to realize that the biological roots of men who transition to women need to be realized as an physical advantage over women. Not recognizing this makes us look uneducated and dishonest and we will continue to be on our island of misfits. Throwing an L icon under the bus divides and eventually, we will be only T.


This is such an important issue right now and I think this article is a great way of bringing it to light. Anyone in the community can be transphobic, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you identify as. Everyone must continue to work towards a world that is inclusive of all, and spreading the word and awareness like this is a great place to start.