I am obliged to write about tennis of course. However, a Presidential Election just finished with the two opponents trading blows back and forth much like a tennis match until the two combatants battled to completion with Donald Trump claiming victory. Have you ever played against an opponent who pulls everything out of the hat to beat you? That same player maintains a hold on you and playing that individual is a painful ordeal. That’s tennis, you have to sometimes do what is not comfortable and analyze and reevaluate the tactics throughout a match. Donald Trump reminds me of that type of tennis player in a figurative sense; someone on a mission to win and focused only on getting the triumphant result. In a way, you have to admire that, but only up to a point.
So where does tennis fit into all of this after my long preamble? As one of the 20th Century's most respected and influential people, Billie Jean King has long been a champion for social change and equality. She created new inroads for both genders in and out of sports during her legendary career and continues to do so today. In August of 2009, King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The award was presented to King by President Barack Obama on Aug. 12, 2009 in ceremonies at The White House. Named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by Life Magazine in 1990. I could not imagine the greatness of a woman who came from our tennis fraternity stooping to the level of Mr. Trump to accomplish what she has done. The National Tennis Center adorns her name here in the New York area. She rose above discrimination as a woman and lesbian, and overcame unimaginable hurdles. As one of Title IX’s top advocates, I along with many others, are able to coach wonderful young athletes and women in college
U.S. Open and Wimbledon Champion Arthur Ashe, who died from complications of AIDS in 1993, was known for his accomplishments off the court, including his involvement in the Black Freedom Movement, his connections to human and civil rights activism in the United States and South Africa, and his gradual integration into a community of Black activists and intellectuals. From our great game of tennis emerged a black man from Richmond, Va. who helped change the landscape of human rights. I wonder what Arthur Ashe would have thought of Mr. Trump?
Renée Richards is a Jewish woman who became a transgender icon in 1977 when she won a lawsuit against the United States Tennis Association. Richards sued the USTA for its refusal to let her compete in the U.S. Open women's division following male-to-female gender reassignment surgery. In a landmark decision, the New York Supreme Court ruled in Richards's favor.
At the height of her tennis career, Richards ranked 20th in the nation. She reached the semifinals in the U.S. Open women's doubles competition. Following retirement, Richards coached tennis star Martina Navratilova. In 2000, the USTA inducted Richards into its Hall of Fame. Richards has published two autobiographies: Second Serve Renée in 1986, also a TV-movie, and No Way Renée: The Second Half of My Notorious Life in 2007. She is a renowned eye surgeon and professor of ophthalmology at the New York University School of Medicine. Mr. Trump, do you have something to say?
Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest champions of our game, has lived an equally successful life. As one of the first openly gay sports figures, Navratilova has spent much of her career overcoming prejudices and stereotypes, losing millions of dollars in endorsement deals along the way just because of her sexual orientation. Since coming out in 1981, she has been a vocal advocate for equal rights and strong supporter of charities which directly benefit the LGBT community. She has received numerous awards from many of the largest organizations within the LGBT community, and donates much time and money to the cause.
Our game is full of greatness, and some of our greatest icons and champions have changed the world and made it a better place. Please remember some of the great ambassadors of world activism came from tennis. Mr. Trump, please take an example from these tennis icons who changed the world for the better and have made us proud.
Lonnie Mitchel is head men’s and women’s tennis coach at SUNY Oneonta. Lonnie was named an assistant coach to Team USA for the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel for the Grand Master Tennis Division. Lonnie may be reached by phone at (516) 414-7202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.