John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova have staged a protest demanding that the Margaret Court arena in Australia is renamed.
As the Australian Open headed into semi-finals, the tennis legends unfurled a banner with their proposed new name of the second biggest tennis court at Melbourne Park.
They object to it being named after Margaret Court because of her views on LGBT issues and apartheid.
Speaking in 1970, Court, who holds the most major titles of any professional player, said of South Africa’s apartheid system: “South Africans have this thing better organised than any other country, particularly America.”
More recently, she described Navratilova as a “great player” but said: “It’s very sad for children to be exposed to homosexuality.”
Navratilova and McEnroe’s banner proposed that the court be renamed the Evonne Goolagang Arena. Goolagang is Australian former number one player who is known, says Sky News, as “a trailblazer in indigenous Australian tennis”.
After the conclusion of her veterans doubles match yesterday, Navratilova climbed into the umpires’ chair to address the remaining crowd, as part of the protest, described as a “stunt” by the conservative The Australian newspaper.
“I’ve been speaking out about an issue for a while now and John McEnroe is here to join me and push the conversation forward…” she said, before she was cut off. The pair then unfurled the banner.
Tennis Australia said of McEnroe and Navratilova’s protest: “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.”
On Monday, Court was honoured in a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of her Grand Slam. In a statement, Tennis Australia said it was only honouring her sporting achievement and not espousing her views.
While her views are controversial, Court’s place in tennis history is beyond question. The International Tennis Hall of Fame states: “For sheer strength of performance and accomplishment there has never been a tennis player to match her.” She won all four singles Slams in one year in 1970.
Court, who is now a Pentecostal minister, has not issued any response to yesterday’s protest.
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