Tennis legend Billie Jean King has called for Margaret Court’s name to be stripped from an Australian Open arena due to her views on same-sex marriage.
Court, who holds the record for the most grand slam tournaments won by a single player (24), is also considered a legend of the sport. The 7,500-seat Margaret Court Arena was renamed in her honour in 2003.
Last May, there were calls for the arena to be rebranded after Court said she would stop using the Qantas airline due to its promotion of same-sex marriage. At the time, Court was quoted as saying: “I am disappointed that Qantas has become an active promoter for same-sex marriage. I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible.
“Your statement leaves me no option but to use other airlines where possible for my extensive travelling.”
Some players suggested that Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena be boycotted during this year’s Australian Open, which began earlier today (Monday).
Ahead of the start of this year’s tournament, King, herself a 12-time grand slam singles champion, spoke out against Court’s comments. “If I were playing today, I would not play on it,” King said, according to the New York Times newspaper. “I personally don’t think she should have her name anymore.”
She added: “I was really for her to have it … I think it’s really important if you’re going to have your name on anything that you’re hospitable, you’re inclusive, you’re open arms to everyone that comes. It’s a public facility.”
King had previously defended Court. “I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community; I’m a gay woman.”
King also pointed to a radio interview Court gave last year, in which she discussed children who questioned their gender identity. Court reportedly told 20 Twenty Vision Christian Radio: “That’s all the devil – that’s what Hitler did and that’s what communism did: got the mind of the children. It’s a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world, to get the minds of the children.”
On those comments, King said: “When she talked about children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge, I must say.”
Court’s husband, Barrymore, insisted that his wife did not make some of the comments that have been reported.
In a letter reported by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Barrymore said that his wife “never made the statement that transgender children being of the devil (sic)” and that “there should be no thought of changing the name” of the arena.
Barrymore added: “I suggest Billie Jean first check her facts before making allegations against my wife.
“We have reputable sources review all her press releases and interviews and cannot trace these remarks back to Margaret.”