Billie Jean King (Pic: Gage Skidmore)
Lesbian tennis icon Billie Jean King says that fellow tennis great Margaret Court’s continued LGBT bigotry should preclude her from having an arena named in her honour.
Ahead of the 2018 Australian Open, King told journalists at a press conference in Melbourne that if she were still playing today, “I would not play on it [the Margaret Court Arena].”
On Friday, the American – who in 1981 became one of the first major sports figures to come out – also issued an official statement on the matter.
“I have a long history with Margaret Court, and when the arena that bears her name was first planned, I fought hard for her to be recognised for her tennis accomplishments,” she said.
“Recently, she has made statements about our LGBTIQ community that crossed the line. Having a stadium or a tennis facility named after you comes with responsibility— including a responsibility to be welcoming and hospitable to all people.”
King, who won an astounding 39 Grand Slam titles in her remarkable career, added: “We are all God’s children.”
Now an openly homophobic and transphobic evangelical pastor, Court is a former Australian world number one who also played in the sixties and seventies. She is considered by many to be one of the greatest female tennis players.
Margaret Court / Twitter
In 2003, the Australian Open venue in Melbourne was renamed the Margaret Court Arena as a tribute to the former Australian athlete; a decision that has become increasingly controversial and embarrassing.
Court is vocal opponent of gay and lesbian equality and same-sex marriage. In May last year she linked LGBT people with Nazism, sexual abuse and Satanism. She suggested that younger female players were lured into lesbianism by older players on the tennis circuit.
Court also threatened to boycott Qantas airlines because of its support for same-sex marriage, and stated that children who question their gender identity are “all the devil”.
Tennis Australia has previously distanced itself from Court’s comments, saying that these are her personal views, but has so far rejected calls for it to change the name of the Margaret Court Arena.