Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have last month teamed up to pen a joint letter to the WTA opposing the association’s potential hosting of the WTA Finals in Ryadh, Saudi Arabia, where women are treated as second-class citizens and homosexuality is outlawed.
As reported by Jon Wertheim at Sports Illustrated, the former on-court rivals (who are now good friends) sent a letter to the WTA asking the organization to reconsider what is thought to be an impending announcement to host the WTA Finals in Riyadh.
“The WTA was founded on fairness and equality to empower women in a male dominated world. In short, the WTA should represent values which sit in stark contrast to those of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Not only is this a country where women are not seen as equal, it is a country which criminalizes the LGBTQ community. A country whose long term record on human rights and basic freedoms has been a matter of international concern for decades.”
Saudi Arabia is one of the worst countries in the world for LGBTQ rights, as it criminalizes gay sex and refuses to acknowledge same-sex marriages. Equaldex ranks it amongst the 30 worst countries in the world for LGBTQ people.
Still, many sports organizations have gravitated in recent years to oil-rich, money-flushed locations in the Middle East, all while Saudi Arabia has made it a point to focus on Western sports as an investment.
When they were both playing professional tennis, in the 1970s and 1980s, Navratina and Evert — known simply as “Martina” and “Chrissie” — played each other in 14 Grand Slam singles finals, with Martina winning 10 of the Grand Slam final matchups.
The two women have become friends in retirement.