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April 29th, 2013
10:57 PM ET

Martina Navratilova on Collins' announcement that he's gay: "Well done, Jason"

On the heels of Monday's revelation that NBA player Jason Collins is gay, and has formally come out in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated, "Piers Morgan Live" invited Martina Navratilova to share her insight and perspective.

As part of the program's debut edition of a segment entitled "In The Chair," the tennis great and LGBT advocate noted the significance of Collins' announcement, in the process comparing it to her own personal experience:

"Madison Avenue totally shunned me. I lost who knows how much money. But I was able to play the sport. Nobody was going to take that away from me, I was still able to play tennis," said the 18-time Grand Slam champion, who herself came out in 1981, shortly after becoming an American citizen. "It's so different from team sports. Athletes, if they come out and the coach is homophobic, or the front office or what have you, they may not get to play. So my livelihood was never threatened, but I certainly didn't make any money on the outside of the sport. But now, for Jason, maybe the case is different, and he may actually get more money because of it. It's kind of ironic.

Joining Piers Morgan in what will become the signature one-on-one, in-depth interview portion of the show, Navratilova explained how Monday's sporting news resonated with her personally, noting how far things have come in the last three decades:

"I didn't get a phone call from Ronald Reagan," joked the 56-year-old native of Czechoslovakia, referencing the fact that Collins has heard from Barack Obama, who applauded the player's courage. "Times were much different then. I didn't really feel it that badly playing matches. But, still, a lot of crowds were sitting on their hands. They weren't clapping when I came on the court or they were booing or jeering. The press was roasting me. It was not a pretty sight. I'd say it was about 95 percent against, and maybe I'd get five percent of support. Now, for Jason, it's much different. It's, I think, the other way around. It's 95 percent for, maybe five percent against. It's fantastic."

Watch the clip, and listen to the interview, as Navratilova concluded her "In The Chair" segment by sending a poignant, if not simple, message to Collins, the first active, openly gay male athlete playing in one of the four top professional American sports organizations:

"Well done, Jason."
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soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Luke

    Collins claims to be the first pro in a team sport to come out - does he not know about Dave Kopay and NFL Player in the 60's and 70's, Dave was way way ahead of his time.

    April 30, 2013 at 1:00 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • rlbock

      Kopay came out years after retirement. Glenn Burke never officially came out, and if he did, it was long after he was out of the sport.

      Collins' announcement isn't pegged as "the first major male athlete to come out"; he is pegged as the first active player in a men's professional sport to come out. Granted, he waited until his career was as good as over to do so, but either way, what he did was huge.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:31 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Alexis

    Actually Glenn Burke of the Dodgers came out in the 70's. Before everyone including CNN proclaims Collins "the first", a "pioneer", a "hero" should do some research or know sports history. Coming out in the 70's was even tougher. I agree with you Luke.

    April 30, 2013 at 1:47 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Brooke

    I think it's no big deal and people should stop making gay/lesbians such a big one

    April 30, 2013 at 10:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Terry

      Congratulations! It seems that it is used only to get some sort of press, or recognition of some sort, nowadays. Thousands of people come out every day and they are not put on the cover of some sort of magazine, etc. I do not know why it makes you so strong and brave for doing so? The movie stars and other people that are in the public eye that do this seemed to think that the general public actually cares. His career is in the tank, and he needed some more press of some sort, probably to make money. We all know that there are millions of gays and lesbians around our country who do not seek attention. Maybe put the spotlight on the politicians more who cannot seem to get our country functioning properly again and spend like drunken sailors at our expense! Better yet, pick Joe blow off the street who put himself in danger every day. Don't pick a policeman or fireman, or any other first responder, they knew the risks when they signed up for the job, they were not shanghaied and then you might have a real story!

      April 30, 2013 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Missus

    Disgustingly deceiptful.

    April 30, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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