June is seen as Pride Month. It’s around this time of year where many celebrate who they are with Pride events all over the World.
Tennis made a bit of an effort this year. Well, when I saw Tennis I mean the WTA and US Open who at least recognised it with posts or a change to imagery on social media.
It’s an effort, but what message have we sent out?
It takes a couple of minutes to do a tweet or a profile picture change.
In Tennis we only have three ‘out’ players. All of which are on the women’s tour with no male ‘out’ players. Those three players are Johanna Larsson (who features in the clip above), Alison Van Utyvanck and Richel Hogenkamp.
Tennis has a very big LGBTQ+ following and there have been issues in the past with current players and ex players outspoken comments in the public eye.
In 2017, Ukranian tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky who until recently served on the ATP Player Council said this about women’s tennis;
“On the WTA tour, almost every other player is a lesbian. Can you imagine – half of them. So I for sure won’t send my daughter to play tennis.”
This got a response from ATP Chief Chris Kermode and previous WTA Chief Stacey Allaster.
“It’s sad to think in this day and age there are people who are narrow minded and speak derisively about women based on sexual orientation. It’s a sad reflection of old thinking and I’m proud of all our WTA players who are forward thinking, treat everyone equal and reflect life in the 21st century.”
Chris Kermode said Sergiy’s comments were;
“offensive, unacceptable, and have no place in our sport”.
Former tennis players James Blake and Martina Navaratilova also spoke up against Sergiy’s comments which you can read in the link below.
Also during 2017 24 time Grand Slam champion Margaret Court made some outrageous homophobic comments about women in tennis. This caused outrage and even players discussed boycotting matches at the Australian Open if they were put on Margaret Court Arena.
Many said it should be renamed and when I was in Melbourne at the beginning of the year it is still a big topic. I didn’t want to go on the court and many didn’t.
“Tennis is full of lesbians” she also went onto say that she doesn’t believe in gay marriage and that transgender people were the work of “the devil”.
I cannot understand with the problems that tennis has faced with these vile comments a better stand wasn’t made during ‘Pride Month’ to send out the right message.
As a tennis fan and a gay person myself I wanted to see a little bit more.
Where were the interviews with Johanna, Alison or Richel about their stories? We talk about inspiring a generation but how can we if we don’t have a platform for our voices?
I know we don’t have an ‘out’ players on the men’s tour but still a message of support, acceptance and overall view on equality would have gone far.
Encourage maybe players to come out or for LGBTQ+ fans to pick up and a racket or support their favourite player.
I would have liked more and I think Grand Slams, ITF, WTA & ATP should have done more.
This isn’t just a problem in tennis but also in Football in the UK and Europe.
In Europe’s top 5 league we don’t have an openly gay player and that is around 0 out of at least 2500 people. The same in the four leagues in England as well.
There is work being done with different organisations to raise awareness in sport but I’m sad were still far away from where we should be.