A public rivalry between two female world tennis champions started this week after retired Australian tennis pro Margaret Court began spouting increasingly unhinged sentiments about LGBTQ people. After several public outbursts by Court, openly lesbian retired tennis champ Martina Navratilova (pictured above) stepped up and wrote an open letter to the arena bearing Court’s name, asking the arena to consider a name change.
Court’s outbursts began when she publicly announced that she planned to avoid traveling on the Australian airlines Qantas after the airline’s openly gay CEO came out in support of legalizing same-sex marriage.
Her letter said in part: “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.”
Court’s letter wasn’t very surprising seeing as she’s now a 74-year-old Christian pastor. In response however, Samantha Stosur, Australia’s current number one women’s singles player, said that she and other tennis players would consider boycotting any matches played at the Margaret Court Arena during the 2018 Australian Open in January. Other Australian tennis players also disagreed with Court’s sentiments on Twitter.
In response, the Australian Prime Minister suggested that people ignore Court’s anti-gay views and celebrate her for her tennis record instead.
They might have, except that Court then went on a Vision Christian Radio program and said tennis is “full of lesbians” and suggested that older, openly lesbian tennis players somehow turned younger players gay by taking them to parties. She followed that up by saying that transgender children are the work of “the devil.”
She also said that “homosexuality was an ungodly ‘lust for the flesh’ and that LGBT tendencies in young people were ‘all the devil,’ adding, “That’s what Hitler did. That’s what communism did,” Court said, “get in the minds of the children. There’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get in the minds of the children.”
When she was publicly called out on her statements, she responded by saying that she was being “persecuted” and bullied.
Around this point, Navratilova stepped in and wrote an open letter to Margaret Court Arena asking the arena to change its name. Her letter said:
Sporting venues named for athletes, or any place, really, named for whoever, are so named for one reason…. their whole body of work. In other words, it is not just for what this person did on the field, on the court, in politics, arts or science, for instance, but also for who they are as human beings.
Court is one of the all-time greats. I had long ago forgiven Court for her headline-grabbing comments in 1990 when she said I was a bad role model because I was a lesbian.
It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights (note to Court: we are human beings, too). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere.
And now, linking LGBT to Nazis, communists, the devil? This is not OK. This is in fact sick and it is dangerous. Kids will suffer more because of this continuous bashing and stigmatizing of our LGBT community.
How much blood will be on Margaret’s hands because kids will continue to get beaten for being different? This is not OK. Too many will die by suicide because of this kind of intolerance, this kind of bashing and yes, this kind of bullying. This is not OK.
Which is why I think it’s time to change your name. And I think the Evonne Goolagong Arena has a great ring to it. Now there is a person we can all celebrate. On every level.
Cawley is a retired Aboriginal-born Australian tennis pro.
Two other openly gay tennis pros — Richel Hogenkamp of Holland and Casey Dellacqua of Australia — have both suggested that the court change its name as well.