Black, Gay & Fiercely Talented – Even Billie Jean King Is “Proud”

One of the most popular and prestigious sports, Tennis has been played since the 19th century. The sport has catapulted athletes to become global stars and to international icon status. You’ll find the best traveling the world, competing, and earning money with every strike of the ball. For the longest of time, the Tennis (like many other sports), had a “boys locker room” mentality. Sure, the great Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova made strides for lesbian women in sports. And Renee Richards was a pioneer for transgender people — being the first trans woman to compete in tennis (at the 1976 US Open).

Credit: Instagram/lendalejohnson

But as for the men? It was always a gentleman’s sport that had a boys’ locker room mentality indeed. There was apparently a toxic, homophobic culture within tennis with slurs thrown around both on and off the court. There were no openly gay male players in tennis, that is until Lendale Johnson came along.

Related Post: “Love is Love? Is The Men’s ATP Tour Homophobic?”

Credit: Instagram/lendalejohnson

I was excited to get a chance to talk with Lendale (be sure to check out the full interview video at the end of this article), to learn more about him. Johnson is America’s 1st openly black and gay tennis professional player. Competing on the ITF Pro Circuit, he was encouraged by a tennis legend (Navratilova), to have a louder voice for the gay community in pro sports. Having the support of tennis icons will certainly embolden you to be that voice. Billie Jean King even acknowledged Johnson.

Credit: Instagram/lendalejohnson

A Kalamazoo, MI native, Johnson ended up in New York City and hit the ground running. He has not only become a fixture on the NYC social scene (attending exclusive events and appearing on magazine covers) but he also owns and operates The Johnson High Performance Tennis Academy. Training both amateur enthusiasts and celebrities, Johnson and his team of tennis pros help their clients to live their Venus and Serena Williams dreams.

Credit: Tennis World USA via US Open

Speaking of the two iconic sisters, (in our interview) Johnson speaks on the two legends and speculates on their future in tennis. But we cover so much in our conversation, like how sports can empower children (especially children who may be struggling with their identity), who within tennis has supported him and how he continues to be a voice for gay people in tennis. We also find out which celebrities he would choose if he was forced to play a game of doubles with them (and why). Hmm… Shawn Mendes or Lil Nas X? Naomi or Tyra? Chyle, we got a little messy on this one!

Credit: Instagram/lendalejohnson

Be sure to follow Lendale Johnson on Instagram and check out his Tennis Academy if you’re interested in improving your tennis skills. Now time for our juicy interview below!

1 thought on “Black, Gay & Fiercely Talented – Even Billie Jean King Is “Proud””

  1. Haven’t heard of him before & I watch a decent amount of Tennis since my dad watches all the time. Nice to have a gay guy to root for. I don’t think there’s been a gay tennis player before.

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