Martina Navratilova / Twitter
Openly lesbian tennis icon Martina Navratilova is speaking out against the shocking homophobia of Australian tennis legend Margaret Court.
In an interview with a Christian radio station this week, Court, 74, ranted against lesbian players and linked LGBT people with Nazism, sexual abuse and Satanism.
She also suggested that young female players were lured into lesbianism by older players on the tennis circuit.
The comments have boosted a campaign to have the Australian Open venue the Margaret Court Arena renamed because of her bigoted views. In an open letter published by the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday, Navratilova backed calls for the venue’s name change.
She noted that not only has Court repeatedly spouted homophobic speech but that she previously appeared to defend the apartheid regime.
“It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe,” said Navratilova. “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 stigmatising of our LGBT community.”
Margaret Court / Twitter
Navratilova continued: “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.”
She went on to suggest that the venue be renamed after Evonne Goolagong Arena, after the former world number one Australian tennis player, who is of part-Aboriginal heritage.
“Now there is a person we can all celebrate. On every level,” said Navratilova.
Court, who is an evangelical pastor, played in the sixties and seventies and is still considered by many to be the greatest-ever female tennis player. She has previously criticised same-sex marriage and recently said she’d boycott Australian airline Qantas because of its support for marriage equality.
Navratilova is also acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest tennis players. She came out in 1981 and retired from the sport in 2006. She has been married to her wife Julia Lemigova since December, 2014.