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Calls for renaming of Margaret Court Arena after Grand Slam winner’s comments on gays

Calls for renaming of Margaret Court Arena after Grand Slam winner’s comments on gays
May 31, 2017

Former tennis Grand Slam winner's Margaret Court's remarks gays and same-sex marriage have provoked a number of current tennis players to say they would object to playing on the court at Melbourne Park named after her.

Court, now aged 74 and a pastor in Perth, has reignited debate about her legacy and how the sport should celebrate her by making a series of inflammatory comments recently about gays and same-sex marriage.

The recent furore started following Court's open letter to The West Australian, when she declared she would not fly on Qantas "where possible" in protest at the support of its Chief Executive Alan Joyce for same-sex marriage. She then told a Christian radio station "tennis is full of lesbians".

Her beliefs are not new - her public comments first stirred protests in 2012 - but her unflinching remarks have provoked some current players to say they would object to playing on a court named after her.

Richel Hogenkamp, who is gay, said after winning her first-round match Monday at the French Open “I think it would be a good thing to see if the Australian Open can maybe change the name of the stadium.

“Because I think if you’re in that kind of position, maybe some players, they don’t feel so comfortable playing in a stadium named after Margaret Court.”

Hogenkamp’s sentiments have been echoed by many other players, past and present, including tennis great Martina Navratilova wrote an open letter to Court on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website condemning her comments and calling for the arena’s name to be changed.

Navratilova wrote “we should not be celebrating this kind of behaviour, this kind of philosophy.

“The platform people like Margaret Court use needs to be made smaller, not bigger.”

Tennis Australia and the operator of the Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne and Olympic Parks, have distanced themselves from Court's views, but have no plans to rename the 7,500 seat venue.

A statement from Tennis Australia, which organises the Australian Open, explained “as a legend of the sport, we respect Margaret Court’s achievements and her unmatched playing record. Her personal views are her own, and do not align with Tennis Australia’s values of equality, inclusion and diversity.”

Maintaining the venue’s current names is backed by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who stated “whatever people may think about Margaret Court’s views about gay marriage - and she’s entitled to have them and she’s entitled to fly on whatever airline she likes or not - you know, she is one of the all-time greats.

“The Margaret Court Arena celebrates Margaret Court the tennis player.”

Court, who played from 1960 to 1977, won 24 Grand Slam singles titles, one more than Serena Williams. Court’s record of 62 major titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles is unlikely to be broken. 

Images: Margaret Court with Rod Laver at the opening of the redeveloped Margaret Court Arena in 2014 (top) and Australian Open action at the Margaret Court Arena (below). 

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We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

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