Eight Greats in Lesbian Sports
There’s no question about it: She got game! From trailblazers to young Turks, this month EDGE brings you our top eight lesbian professional athletes. See how tennis legends like Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova opened the playing field for women since before Title IX legislation was enacted in 1972. And learn how today’s ballers and hockey aces are inspiring new generations of female athletes to come. When it comes to playing hard and standing brave, these eight are truly great.
1. Tennis Legend Billie Jean King
When she was only 29 years old, Billie Jean King took the sports world by storm when she beat Bobby Riggs in 1973’s historic Battle of the Sexes, proving once and for all that women players are as good as men. She went on to found the Women’s Tennis Association and Virginia Slims, the first pro women’s tennis tour. Sadly, she lost her endorsements when her secretary, Marilyn Barnett, outed her by suing for palimony in 1981, at the end of their nearly decadelong relationship. She lost $2 million in endorsements within 24 hours and was no longer able to afford to retire. King went through some rocky times but became very involved in the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. President Barack Obama tapped her to lead a delegation of gays to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, but she had to bail when her mother got sick and later died. King lives in New York and Chicago with her longtime partner, Ilana Kloss.
2. U.S. Women’s National Ice Hockey Star Caitlin Cahow
That’s no puck bunny -- that’s Caitlin Cahow, the Harvard University and Boston College Law School graduate who knows her way around a slap shot. Also tapped by President Obama as one of the gay delegates sent to represent the U.S. in Sochi, Cahow won a bronze medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin and a silver medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and this southpaw defender served as captain of the Boston Blades last season. Since she retired from the U.S. Women’s National Ice Hockey team, this advocate for concussion research in female athletes spends the occasional afternoon working on a lobster boat on her home island of Vinalhaven, off the coast of Maine.
3. Tennis Star Martina Navratilova
Since coming out in 1981, this Czechoslovakia defector and tennis legend spent her career not only racking up 59 Grand Slam crowns and nine Wimbledon singles champs, but also serving as a trailblazer for women and gay athletes. Billie Jean King reportedly still considers Martina Navratilova "the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who’s ever lived." Now a tennis coach, Navratilova is the face of Subaru and the Rainbow Card, has been honored by almost every LGBT organization there is, and continues to steer people toward healthy living with her book, "Shape Your Self."
4. WNBA Star Sheryl Swoopes
Back in the ’90s, basketball star Sheryl Swoopes tore up the court as a star player for the Texas Tech Lady Raiders before being recruited by the Houston Comets in 1997. In October 2005, she came out as a lesbian, letting folks know that she and her partner, former baller and Comets assistant coach Alisa Scott, hoped to tie the knot. Swoopes became a spokesperson for Olivia Cruises and was a regular at LGBT fundraisers. She now serves as head coach of the Loyola University Chicago’s women’s basketball team. And although she ditched Scott for a man, she still came out as a proud lesbian when few other pro ballers would.