FILE - Tennis legend and equality rights advocate Billie Jean...

FILE - Tennis legend and equality rights advocate Billie Jean King, speaks at a Women's History Month event honoring women athletes in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, March 9, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a new poll finds Americans are split on how much progress has come from the landmark women's rights law. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

The juxtaposition of it all almost seems intentionally cruel.

One day after the 50th anniversary of Title IX – the legislation passed to create and enforce equal opportunities for women in education and sports – the Supreme Court ruled Friday that Americans will no longer have the constitutional right to abortion that they have had for 49 years.

Friday’s reversal of Roe v. Wade leaves constitutional rights up to individual states, with more than 20 states poised to immediately reduce or ban access to abortions.

It doesn’t matter that we knew it was coming. It doesn’t matter that we had been steeling ourselves for this ever since a draft of the decision was leaked in early May. The reality of it all was just too devastating for many to take, including many in the sports world.

The WNBA and NBA released a joint statement Friday condemning the ruling and many players and teams quickly followed.

Tennis great Martina Navratilova tweeted, "Welcome to Gilead," referring to the fictional location of the popular book and television series "The Handmaid’s Tale," where women are stripped of all rights. Seattle guard and Syosset native Sue Bird simply tweeted the word “Gutted” and an emoji of a broken heart.

Male sports figures also weighed in with LeBron James tweeting numerous times about how overturning Roe vs. Wade disproportionately impacts Black women and the Nets' Kyrie Irving tweeted “Protect our women by any means necessary.”

The constitutional right to an abortion has been around for nearly a half century. That means the majority of Americans, including all of today’s athletes, weren’t alive or can’t remember much about the pre-Roe v. Wade and pre-Title IX world.

They don’t remember a time when women had little control over what their bodies were allowed to do, whether it be on an athletic field or in an OBGYN’s office.

They don’t remember, as many of my mother’s generation do, well-off friends who went to private doctors “to have a cyst” removed. Or those less fortunate, who resorted to dangerous at-home methods or “back alley” abortions because there was no other option.

Billie Jean King does, though. The tennis great, who spoke about her abortion in her memoir “All In,” had to get her husband’s written permission when she had an abortion in 1971, even though she lived in California, a state where the procedure was legal.

“Men remained in charge of not just financial matters but even the right to govern my own body,” King wrote.

The world has changed so much since the early 1970s, before Title IX and Roe v. Wade, especially for women. Both pieces of legislation have something to do with that as women gained both the right to reproductive choice and the right to pursue many of the opportunities that previously been reserved for men, both in education and in sports.

Yet, that doesn’t mean it can’t change back, which is why it’s so important that opponents of the ruling don’t limit their opposition to social media.

While it was great to see the WNBA and NBA take a stance, it would be even greater to see them put some economic pressure on states looking to end reproductive freedoms. It certainly worked when the NBA pulled its All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of North Carolina’s bathroom bill.

And while many male athletes in different sports have spoken out, it might be nice to see a male sports league other than the NBA take a stance.

Twenty-four hours ago, we were celebrating the advancement of women and the fact that our daughters had so many opportunities we never did. Now, the tables have turned and they’re dealing with something we never dreamed any of us would have to deal with again.

Beyond cruel.


"This decision will not end abortion. What it will end is safe and legal access to this vital medical procedure. It is a sad day in the United States.”

-- Billie Jean King

“I think the cruelty is the point because this is not pro life by any means.”

-- Megan Rapinoe

The NBA and WNBA "believe that women should be able to make their own decisions concerning their health and future, and we believe that freedom should be protected.”

-- NBA commissioner Adam Silver and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert

“Incredibly disappointed by the decision made today. The sad part is this will not stop abortions from happening . . . this will only increase illegal and unsafe abortions."

-- Coco Gauff