This week, Martina Navratilova and Tim Thomas faced regimes they found difficult to stomach.
But their reactions have been so different.
Thomas, the Boston Bruins netminder, created a firestorm when he decided to boycott the Stanley Cup-winning team’s visit to the White House, because he said the federal government was out of control.
Navratilova staged her own protest after hearing remarks from Australian tennis great Margaret Court before the Australian Open tournament in Melbourne.
Court, now a Pentecostal pastor in Perth, had stated publicly that young people chose to be gay because of a moral decline in Australian society.
The 69-year-old Court, who still holds the record for most grand slam wins (24), said: “Politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out of behind closed doors into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take.”
Of course, Navratilova is openly gay and to her, the comments are astonishing. The 55-year-old tennis star is in Australia to play legends’ events at the tournament. And on the first day, to which court had she been assigned? The Margeret Court court, named after the pastor with the conservative views.
Navratilova did not boycott the match in a huff. She played, and her protest was to wear a rainbow patch that many players have been sporting in protest of Court’s words.
Navratilova was gracious about the ironic incident. “Playing on the Margaret Court arena, it’s an honour,” Navratilova said. “You know, it’s not a personal issue. Clearly Margaret Court’s views that she has expressed on same sex marriage, I think are outdated. But it’s not about any one person. It’s not about religious rights, it’s about human rights. It’s a secular view, not a religious view.”
Navratilova said the two tennis greats haven’t spoken in years.
“She was all about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. She repeated that about four or five times, so I just felt I couldn’t get through to her. Maybe she thought she could get through to me.”
Court, who showed up with her husband, Barry, with the best seats in the house, said the court is no place for protests.
And indeed, it has been quiet at the Australian Open, with players like Laura Robson of Britain wearing a rainbow headband in support of equal rights.
There should be nothing wrong with an athlete standing up for their beliefs. But which athlete would you listen to? Tim Thomas or Martina Navratilova?