[Editor's Note: Considering the hullaballo about a certain male basketball player coming out—when men do come out it's just.so.damn.noble!—we at Vp would like to remind everyone that a certain female tennis player helped paved the way 32 years ago. Her name is Martina Navratilova. When she came out she lost thousands of dollars in sponsorships; in stark contract, last week Brittany Grenier came out and got a Nike contract.
This interview was originally published in Vp issue 12 by Jackie Schneider 2007.]
A young man draped his hand on Martina Navratilova's shoulder and firmly kissed her cheek. The brims of their black caps touched. Her narrow eyes softened, her mouth open in a smile. She and Bob Bryan clutched a giant silver trophy. They had just won the mixed doubles finals match at the U.S. Open. It was the 178th and final title of her career.
Weeks later, the day before her fiftieth birthday, Martina Navratilova joined Billie Jean King and about two dozen of the country's best female athletes to be inducted into The Billie Jean King International Women's Sports Hall of Fame. King warmly thanked Navratilova for helping her win a doubles tournament decades ago. Among the women in tailored pantsuits and button-down blouses, Navratilova sat in an audience that applauded her. To her right was a giant photo of her on the tennis court, ready to attack an incoming shot. Navratilova looked worn out after the ceremony. While answering her phone, she simultaneously signed an autograph and poked a forkful of spiral pasta into her mouth, the first thing sheâ€™d had to eat in hours. For someone about to celebrate both retirement and a birthday, Navratilova has been working hard. She'd driven, from Florida to New York for this event, with her partner and four of her 15 dogs.
On a press circuit, Navratilova has been promoting the Rainbow Card VISA card that donates a portion of people's credit transactions to LGBT organizations as well as a new fitness book, Shape Your Self. She was looking forward to the coming birthday dinner, a celebration that marks a new beginning and a few moments to breathe. They were to eat Thai, but she wasn't sure where. "I don't know who will be there," she said. "It's in my honey's hands." In her retirement, Navratilova will carry on some of the missions she began decades ago.