Stories of the Open Era: Margaret Court, on and off the court

US tennis legend Billie Jean King wants Margaret Court Arena renamed

Fifteen years agon when an arena at Australia's Melbourne Park was named for the country's 24-time Grand Slam victor Margaret Court, tennis legend and activist Billie Jean King spoke on behalf of honoring the former athlete turned Pentecostal minister for her towering achievements in the sport.

Court will not attend this year's event, and has opted to go on holiday instead in her native Western Australia, where she is a pastor at the Victory Life Centre, a church with deeply conservative views on social issues.

"I wish Margaret were here this year".

Speaking to i ahead of the Australian Open, Dale Park, the co-convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said of renaming the Margaret Court Arena: "Mrs Court's sporting achievements are unquestionable, but her consistent attacks on the LGBTIQ community, including a fellow Australian tennis player [Casey Dellacqua] and their family, fall well short of community expectation".

"I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community; I'm a gay woman", King added.

Another gay tennis champion, Martina Navratilova has recently said that she would not play at the Margaret Court Arena if she was still playing professionally.

Court regularly has defended her stance as part of her Christian beliefs.

King said she had once supported Court's name adorning one of the stadiums, after Rod Laver was honoured with an arena. She said: "I think that is petty if they do that and it says what's in their heart".

"I think if you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want somebody [with those views] to have their name on something", she said.

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"It's really important if you're going to have your name on anything that you're hospitable, you're inclusive, you open your arms to everyone that comes".

'That really went deep in my heart and soul. "It's a public facility".

The second show court at Melbourne Park was renamed in the 75-year-old Australian's honour in 2003.

'Maybe it's our community, the LGBTIQ community (why) people might feel differently.

I just think she's gotten really derogatory. When she talks about the children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge.

Billie Jean King at a press conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Tiley, who sat beside King as she articulated her objections, said her position was not awkward for the tournament.

But she said while she personally supported a change, the decision was ultimately up to the people of Australia and would not be easy.

When Margaret Court beat Billie Jean King at Wimbledon in 1970, it was a long, desperate battle that broke the record for the longest set in a final at the tournament. Whether any of the hundreds of players who might be assigned matches there would refuse to compete is yet unknown.


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