Megan Rapinoe Calls Out Former Tennis Star Martina Navratilova for Anti-Trans Comments

Navratilova, who is gay, tweeted “biology matters in sports,” after Rapinoe told Time how anti-trans sentiments like Navratilova's cause real harm.

Megan Rapinoe Calls Out Former Tennis Star Martina Navratilova for Anti-Trans Comments
Photo:Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic; Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio (Getty Images)

Soccer star and LGBTQ+ rights activist Megan Rapinoe may have announced earlier this month that she will be retiring from the sport at the end of the 2023 NWSL season, but this does not mean she will go quietly into that good night.

In a Time cover story published Monday, Rapinoe, the 38-year-old two-time defending World Cup champion for the United States and OL Reign player, began her gracious farewell—which included directing her fury at prominent voices who have actively spoken out against the inclusion of trans girls and women in sports and are fueling transphobia in America. Among them are ESPN anchor Sage Steele, Dave Chappelle, and Martina Navratilova—the gay Czech tennis star who won 18 Grand Slams and has been vocal in her (incorrect) opinion that trans women should not compete alongside cisgender women. And Navratilova has not stopped tweeting about it.

“I don’t want to mince words about it,” Rapinoe told Time about the real harm their anti-trans sentiments can cause. “Dave Chappelle making jokes about trans people directly leads to violence, whether it’s verbal or otherwise, against trans people. When Martina or Sage or whoever are talking about this, people aren’t hearing it just in the context of elite sports. They’re saying, ‘The rest of my life, this is how I’m going to treat trans people.’”

Navratilova quote-tweeted a CNN headline with snippets of Rapino’s quote on Monday, and wrote, ever so eloquently, “Yikes…” Since then, she appears to be digging in her heels, as she’s been responding to Twitter users wondering why she seems determined to die on this hill. “Because biology matters in sports,” she wrote Thursday.

When a former fan told Navratilova that her stance on trans inclusion in sports had, for this particular user, tarnished Navratilova’s legacy as an iconic out tennis player who advocated for the rights of fellow gay athletes, the former player responded, “Too bad you don’t actually care about women and girls. Too bad. I do.”

“I am on the side of women athletes. The right wing is against trans, period. I am on the side of the trans community,” Navratilova continued. “When it comes to sports we have biological categories for the obvious reason- biology. Trans people are free to compete- in their biological category. Simple.”

These sorts of nonsensical arguments are par for the course for Navratilova, who has praised World Athletics—the Olympic track governing body—for banning trans women from competing, and claimed that allowing trans women to compete against cis women would be like punishing the “innocent.” But of course, this sort of victim mentality not only lacks evidence, but views the idea of “fairness” in the eyes of the majority—punching down at those who are not demanding to win or replace cis women, but are simply asking for an opportunity to compete in sports, period.

When Time asked Rapinoe whether she’d welcome a trans woman on the U.S. women’s soccer team, even if that person might replace a cis player, she responded: “Absolutely. You’re taking a ‘real’ woman’s place, that’s the part of the argument that’s still extremely transphobic. I see trans women as real women. What you’re saying automatically in the argument–you’re sort of telling on yourself already–is you don’t believe these people are women. Therefore, they’re ‘taking the other spot.’ I don’t feel that way.” Further, Rapinoe believes that, at the end of the day, the benefits of including trans kids in sports are more important than any alleged drawbacks or criticisms.

“We as a country are trying to legislate away people’s full humanity,” Rapino said of the U.S.’s obsession with anti-trans bans. “It’s particularly frustrating when women’s sports is weaponized…Oh, now we care about fairness? Now we care about women’s sports? That’s total bullshit. And show me all the trans people who are nefariously taking advantage of being trans in sports. It’s just not happening.”

In other words, pipe down, Navratilova. People like Rapinoe don’t have time to wade into discriminatory hissy fits. She’s too busy preparing for the World Cup.

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