The Australian Open has become embroiled in a furore stemming from Australian tennis legend Margaret Court’s recent anti-gay comments.
In December, Court was slammed by fellow tennis icons Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King after she criticised same-sex marriage as being unnatural.
She also said that that homosexuality is “abominable” and violates the “God-given nature of what is right and what is wrong”.
In response, a Facebook campaign has urged audience members attending Australian Open matches in the Margaret Court Arena to hold up rainbow flags in protest.
There have also been calls for Tennis Australia, the country’s tennis organising body, to rename the arena.
Eighteen-year-old British tennis player Laura Robson further brought the issue into the spotlight by wearing a rainbow hair band during her match at the open, which was played on the Margaret Court Arena on Monday.
Robson, who lost the match to Jelena Jankovic, later said that she was aware of Court’s comments but did not know about the protest campaign.
“I didn’t see anything about a protest. I wore it because I believe in equal rights for everyone. That’s it. It’s not a protest, it’s just a hair band,” she said.
Tennis Australia has distanced itself from Court’s comments, saying that “all human beings, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or otherwise, should be treated equally”.
Now an evangelical pastor, Court is a former world number one who played in the sixties and seventies and is still considered by many to be the greatest-ever female tennis player.
In 1990 she said that Navratilova and other lesbian players were ruining tennis and setting a bad example for young players.