Tennis legends Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe are leading fresh calls for Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena to be renamed.
The arena is named after Court, who won a record 24 grand slam tournaments as a player. The venue has a capacity of 7,500 and stages matches at the Australian Open every year.
In May 2017, Court attracted criticism after saying that she would stop using the Qantas airline due to its promotion of same-sex marriage. There have since been calls for the arena to be renamed and Navratilova and McEnroe yesterday paraded an ‘Evonne Goolagong Arena’ banner, suggesting that Court’s name be stripped in favour of Goolagong, who won 14 grand slams as a player.
Navratilova climbed into a vacant umpire’s chair following a doubles match before inviting McEnroe to parade the banner with her.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Navratilova said that she felt the conversation around changing the name had stopped, adding: “I thought we got it going a couple of years ago. I thought Tennis Australia would do something – or the government of Victoria, as apparently they are the ones that make the decision – but nothing has happened. And Margaret keeps doubling down in basically attacking the gay and lesbian community.
“My wife Julia said you’re complaining about it, but what are you going to do? And I’m like, I’ve done everything I can do. I’ve written a letter, I’ve been very vocal, and then when I landed here, and I came to the courts, I had this idea.
“I stopped in an art shop and got a canvas and some coloured pens and started colouring ‘Evonne Goolagong Arena’ in the aboriginal version – a very amateur version of aboriginal art – as an honour to Evonne Goolagong and where she came from.
“John, I ran into him, and on the spur of the moment I asked him because he also talked about renaming the arena. He’s been very supportive of social change in tennis, so it was perfect. I wanted to be respectful, but most of all I just wanted to push the conversation forward again. I have no doubt it’s the right thing to do.”
Tennis Australia said following the incident that “two high-profile guests” had breached their protocols. It came after the governing body yesterday (Monday) marked the 50th anniversary of the year Court won all four grand slams in the same year.
Tennis Australia’s statement read: “We embrace diversity, inclusion and the right for people to have a view, as well as their right to voice that view.
“But the Australian Open has regulations and protocols with respect to how any fan, player or guest can use our facility, the event and the global stage it provides. This is to ensure the integrity of our event.
“Two high-profile guests have breached these protocols and we are working through this with them.”