It is unfortunate, but unsurprising at the same time, how the media reports have been targeting Navratilova for her decision to opt for dual citizenship. Not just the greatest tennis player of all time, she is a tireless champion of human rights – and no matter if it discomforts the institutional left or conservative right, one needs to pay attention to (and accept the experiential basis of) what Navratilova has to say. Hope this statement puts the controversy to rest.
April 4, 2008
By Martina Navratilova
They say bad publicity is better than no publicity. I beg to differ. I have been dealing with the press for about 35 years now and I still get surprised — surprised by how wrong they can get it. Take this report last week on my receiving a dual citizenship — I got my Czech citizenship back while keeping my US citizenship. I thought it was going to be a rather harmless, not that interesting story except perhaps in the Czech Republic. I have, in fact, tried to apply for Czech citizenship back in 1998 or 1999 but the paperwork (copies of my Czech birth certificate, my USA citizenship certificate, etc.) got lost in the mail. It obviously took me a long time before I applied again. The reasons for getting dual citizenship were multiple. I have been traveling to the Czech Republic on a monthly basis to visit my ailing mother who could no longer come to visit me in the States. I also started doing business there and having a Czech citizenship made sense from that point. And of course there is an emotional component here. When I left then Czechoslovakia, I did it because of the repressive communist government, not because I did not like the country or the people.
I fell in love with the US, its democracy and the people. And since most of the tennis tournaments were played here, it made perfect sense for me to make my home in US. I applied for US citizenship and received it on July 20, 1981. Since then I have proudly represented the US in numerous competitions, including the Fed Cup, the Wightman Cup and the Athens Olympics. In fact, in 1986 I helped win the Fed Cup for USA in Prague, beating Czechoslovakia in the finals.
In 1989 Czechoslovakia became a democracy and I could now be proud of my birth country for all the right reasons. I have never said that I wanted to get dual citizenship because I was unhappy with the Bush administration. Yet this is what was reported. I have never, ever said I would denounce my American citizenship once I get my Czech one, yet somehow this was also reported. And of course I am now getting a big share of negative response to these allegations. The fact that they are false does not seem to matter to the reporters telling these stories.
I love my birth country and the fact that it is now a free country and a true democracy. But my home is here, in the US. I have lived in America since 1975 and I intend to always live here. This is my home and it feels almost gratuitous to me that I have to affirm my love for the USA. I live here, I vote here, I pay my taxes here and yes, I will do my jury duty… any reports stating I am leaving and most of all, denouncing my American citizenship are simply not true and quite frankly, insulting.
Having dual citizenship is not an unusual thing for millions of Americans and I am baffled how being one of them turned into such a negative proposition. My fellow dual citizenship countrywoman, Madeleine Albright, certainly did not catch this flack… so why me? Beats me…but such is the power of the press. Sometimes, they don’t let facts get in the way of their story. And that is a shame.