Tennis player, model, actor, and celebrity tennis coach Lendale Johnson has applauded the top men players such as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray for speaking openly in public forums and providing their support for the LGBTQ community..
In a column for The Metro, Johnson spoke about the challenges that tennis players face when it came to being openly gay. "Throughout my tennis career, I never really had to publicly come out. In fact, I remember Martina Navratilova even sending me a direct message on Twitter supporting my identity and urging me to be open about it because it would be good for the sport.
Unfortunately, this acceptance doesn’t seem to extend to high profile male professional tennis players. There are closeted players on tour that are no doubt putting their tennis career above being open about their sexuality.
In fact, former world number 67 Brian Vahaly – who came out in 2017 – revealed a year later that about 30 young players had opened up to him in private, but were scared of making their sexuality public. Homophobia – both internalised and externalised – drives the fear of retraction of corporate sponsorship and endorsement deals, anxiety, hate crimes, and the list goes on.
This limitation is very unfortunate, as the more professionals that come out, the more widely accepted it will become. Visibility is important, not just because it makes it safer and easier for others, but with community comes support."
Lendale Johnson applauds the efforts of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray
In this context, Johnson applauded Djokovic, Federer and Murray for speaking out about the issue, saying that when high profile players talk about these issues, it raises awareness and promotes acceptability on the same.
"If high profile players are open about being LGBTQ, it will truly help others do the same. Opening a dialogue during interviews and press conferences is a pivotal step in changing the stigma. I applaud Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray who have previously stepped up as allies and done just that.
In 2018, when asked how he would react if a fellow male player came out, Djokovic said it would be a ‘courageous move’ and he ‘wouldn’t have anything against that, absolutely’. Similarly, Federer previously said he didn’t think ‘it would be a problem’ because ‘we’re very open’."
Johnson also provided some advise in his column to any player considering coming out. "For any professional tennis players considering taking this important step, I say surround yourself with a support group you can trust, bite the bullet and emerge out of that restrictive closet.
You will be able to finally live a happier life and undoubtedly spark a renewed confidence, drive, passion, and motivation in your game to win like you’ve never won before." While several top women players over the years have come out, including Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Amelie Mauresmo, Sam Stosur, Gigi Fernandez and Casey Dellacqua, there have not been any cases of a top male player who has come out while playing on the ATP Tour.
Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have been among the top players in men's tennis over the past 15 years.