Billie Jean King has congratulated the first black, openly gay tennis player Lendale Johnson after he was named an Athlete Ally Pro Ambassador. Lendale’s fame is growing each day and now he’s slated to star in the upcoming Amazon Prime season Deuces and Love where he will interview celebrities and give the public a look inside his fabulous life. For many; however, this multi-hyphenate is known best for his first love — tennis!
Though Lendale is highly revered for his bravery and outspokenness regarding his sexuality and does not hide who he is, that doesn’t mean it has been easy for him.
Lendale grew up in a religious household and received the message that many LGBTQ+ children receive — there is something wrong or bad about them. Needless to say, Lendale wasn’t outspoken as a child or middle schooler about who he was and when he did get the courage to speak to his close family about it, he didn’t get the reception he had hoped for.
It wasn’t until he was playing tennis in high school, that something transpired giving him courage. Lendale described the event as follows.
I remember the captain of my high school tennis team was blunt and one day during practice or a match (I can’t recall) he was like, ‘Lenny we know you’re gay and we don’t care. Just kill it on court.’ I vaguely remember laughing and went about whatever I was doing in that moment. I came out to myself in high school and slowly to close friendships but I wasn’t outspoken about it.
Not everyone has been as accepting as Lendale’s high school coach and he has faced many challenges. Not only is he a gay man, but he is also a gay, black man and tennis has predominantly been the sport of lily-white, country clubs and the court has routinely been accused of being host to racist practices.
MaliVai Washington, Venus, and Serena Williams are just a few who have experienced racism on the tennis court, and in the case of Venus and Serena, their father Richard Williams has been vocal about the issue. So too, is Lendale Johnson.
Billie Jean King shared the following message of congratulations to Lendale Johnson for being named an Athlete Ally Pro Ambassador.
Lendale not only lives his truth but he encourages other LGBTQ+ athletes to come out of the closet and embrace their authentic selves on and off the court. He stated the following.
At the end of the day professional tennis is a business, I don’t want to contradict myself but if players are scared to come out ultimately they are risking lucrative sponsorship and endorsement opportunities and most importantly not really living. I say surround yourself with a support group you can trust, bite the bullet and come out. You’ll 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.
Congratulations to Lendale Johnson for becoming an Athlete Ally Pro Ambassador!
Charisse Van Horn is a freelance writer from Tampa Bay. She enjoys writing about celebrities, entertainment, and fashion. Any reproduction of this article outside of Celebrity Insider will be met with legal action by the writer.