JK Rowling slams BBC's new director of sport Alex Kay-Jelski after he called tennis star Martina Navratilova and Olympic medalist Sharron Davies 'not experts' on trans athletes in female events

JK Rowling has hit out at the BBC's new director of sport after he said Martina Navratilova and Sharron Davies were 'not experts' on trans athletes in female events.

The Harry Potter author criticised sports journalist Alex Kay-Jelski after he claimed, in an article for the Times in 2019, that while the two athletes were 'important, influential voices' they were 'not experts' on the topic.

Ms Navratilova criticised Mr Kay-Jelski, who she claimed has since blocked her on X, for being so confident in knowing what 'women like myself and Sharron know about biology and sports etc'.

Rowling later waded into the row, saying it was 'unbelievable for a man in his position to say these things at all, let alone block you'.

She added it was 'utterly predictable' that Kay-Jelski has been appointed to the role despite his previous comments 'given the shameful state of the BBC's reporting on the women's rights/gender issue'.

JK Rowling (pictured) hit out at the BBC 's new director of sport Alex Kay-Jelski after he said Martina Navratilova and Sharron Davies were 'not experts' on trans athletes in female events

JK Rowling (pictured) hit out at the BBC 's new director of sport Alex Kay-Jelski after he said Martina Navratilova and Sharron Davies were 'not experts' on trans athletes in female events

Mr Kay-Jelski (pictured) has previously claimed in an article for the Times in 2019 that while the two athletes were 'important, influential voices' they were 'not experts' on the topic

Mr Kay-Jelski (pictured) has previously claimed in an article for the Times in 2019 that while the two athletes were 'important, influential voices' they were 'not experts' on the topic

Ms Navratilova (pictured) claimed Mr Kay-Jelski, who has previously worked for the digital sports subscription service The Athletic, has blocked her on X

Ms Navratilova (pictured) claimed Mr Kay-Jelski, who has previously worked for the digital sports subscription service The Athletic, has blocked her on X

The row was sparked by a post on which X drew attention to an article Mr Kay-Jelski wrote for The TImes in March 27, 2019, during which he was a Sports Editor for the newspaper.

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In the piece he claimed that while Martina Navratilova and Sharron Davies were 'important, influential voices who speak for many women on this topic. They, like most of us, are not experts though.'

He continued: 'And while it’s important to hear and respect people’s views, I disagree and worry a circus is being created out of something that a) is not a huge problem in sport and b) further marginalises totally unthreatening people and creates a narrative of fear around them.'

The sports journalist went on to say that forcing trans women to compete in their own special category in female sport events was comparable to doing the same to 'Jamaican sprinters and Ethiopian marathon runners'.

He wrote: 'It has been suggested that they should compete in their own special category so there’s no sporting advantage.

'What about special categories for Jamaican sprinters and Ethiopian marathon runners, whose genetics has been shown to give them an advantage over their rivals? Sounds mad doesn’t it? Nasty, even. Indeed.'

Former Olympian Sharron Davies (pictured) is well known for winning silver at the 400m medley silver at the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow

Former Olympian Sharron Davies (pictured) is well known for winning silver at the 400m medley silver at the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow

Sharron Davies on the way to winning silver in the 1980 Moscow Olympics

Sharron Davies on the way to winning silver in the 1980 Moscow Olympics

Martina Navratilova pictured holding the Wimbledon women's singles trophy in 1990

Martina Navratilova pictured holding the Wimbledon women's singles trophy in 1990

Ms Navratilova later hit back at his comments, writing on X: 'This is pretty pathetic- never heard of this man, looked him up here and found myself blocked.

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'Once again, good to know that men apparently know what women like myself and Sharron know about biology and sports etc. Just amazing to be this confident, no?'

Rowling also weighed in to back up the former tennis star's point. She said: 'I'd say it's unbelievable for a man in his position to say these things at all, let alone block you, and yet, given the shameful state of the BBC's reporting on the women's rights/gender issue, it's utterly predictable.'

Ms Rowling has been outspoken on her views on gender, and just last month claimed women's rights are facing 'the greatest assault in my lifetime' by trans activists.

The 58-year-old has been criticised by people on the opposite side of the gender debate, but said she regrets not speaking out 'far sooner' and would be 'ashamed for the rest of my days' if she did not stick her head above the parapet.

She explained her belief in protecting women's sex-based rights in an essay which features in The Women Who Wouldn't Wheesht - a forthcoming book on Scotland's battle for women's rights.

And she said that had she not spoken out against activism she would have felt 'ashamed for the rest of my days'.

Ms Rowling (pictured) has been outspoken on her views on gender, and just last month claimed women's rights are facing 'the greatest assault in my lifetime' by trans activists

Ms Rowling (pictured) has been outspoken on her views on gender, and just last month claimed women's rights are facing 'the greatest assault in my lifetime' by trans activists

Members of the public take part in a Let Women Speak protest on April 6, 2024 in Edinburgh

Members of the public take part in a Let Women Speak protest on April 6, 2024 in Edinburgh

'I'd come to believe that the socio-political movement insisting 'trans women are women' was neither kind nor tolerant, but in fact profoundly misogynistic, regressive, dangerous in some of its objectives and nakedly authoritarian in its tactics,' Rowling said, in an extract published in the Times.

Her comments came as the Conservatives recently announced new plans to make it easier to ban post-op trans people in women-only spaces.

The landmark change in the law proposed by the Conservatives would allow transgender women to be blocked from entering female-only spaces without legal recourse.

This includes areas such as single-sex hospital wards, rape crisis centres, prison cells and lavatories, and from competing in women's sports.

That would cover transgender women who have had reconstructive surgery and those who have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) stating that they have changed gender.

Such an update to the 2010 legislation, to make clear that 'sex' refers to 'biological sex', was backed by Britain's equalities watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in April last year.

At present, if organisers try to block transgender women from female-only spaces, they face legal challenges and being sued for discrimination.

The BBC declined to comment.

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