Tennis great Billie Jean King backs calls to change name of Margaret Court Arena

Billie Jean King wants Margaret Court’s name stripped from the Australian Open showcourt because of Court’s Biblical views on sexuality.

Twelve-times grand slam champion Billie Jean King wants Margaret Court’s name stripped from the Australian Open showcourt because of Court’s Biblical views on sexuality, including the claim that “tennis is full of lesbians”, are offensive.

Pentecostal Christian pastor Court, who holds the record for winning most Grand Slam singles titles at 24, is a defender of the Christian worldview of traditional marriage and family. The Australian tennis great is also an opponent of gay marriage and stated in the past that lesbianism on the women’s tour has a corrupting influence on young players.

The former 64-time major winner, who is now a pastor at Victory Life Church in Perth, also once wrote a letter to the West Australian to express sadness that Casey Dellacqua’s newborn child would be “deprived of his father”.

King, who was twice crowned as Australian Open champion, said on the eve of this year’s tournament that she had recently changed her mind about whether the controversial Court should continue to have an arena named in her honour.

“I’m a gay woman. If I were playing today, I would not play on it,” King said during a press conference in Melbourne on Friday.

The 74-year-old American, who won 12 major singles titles, said she had originally backed Court to be honoured by the naming of the stadium, but the Australian’s outspoken views in recent years had changed her mind. King explained:

I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community. That really went deep in my heart and soul.

I just feel like she’s gotten really derogatory. When she talks about the children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge.

I wish she were here so we could further this discussion.

King’s attack on Margaret Court is not the first from the tennis world. In 2017 Martina Navratilova, who came out as a lesbian after she was outed as bisexual in the 1980s, wrote an open letter urging the city of Melbourne to change the name of the Court Arena.

“When you were named after Margaret Court, it seemed like the right thing to do,” Navratilova explained in her letter.

“After all, Rod Laver already had the big stadium, and Court is one of the all-time greats. I had long ago forgiven Court for her headline-grabbing comments in 1990 when she said I was a bad role model because I was a lesbian.

“It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and … a homophobe. 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 demonizing trans kids and trans adults everywhere,” Navratilova added.

“We should not be celebrating this kind of behavior,” the former number one ranked player insisted.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said the matter of a name change was not up to Tennis Australia, as that responsibility fell to the state government. He said the organisation had not recommended Court’s name be stripped.

“Everyone has the right to say what they want to say but everyone has the right to respond,” he said.

The 2018 Australian tennis open begins on Monday, January 15.


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