Martina Navratilova urges renaming of Margaret Court Arena

Former tennis champ Martina Navratilova has suggested that the venue's name be changed to the Evonne Goolagong Arena, after another Australian former world No. 1.
Former tennis champ Martina Navratilova has suggested that the venue's name be changed to the Evonne Goolagong Arena, after another Australian former world No. 1.PHOTO: ST FILE

SYDNEY • Martina Navratilova has stepped up her call to rename Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne in an ongoing row with her fellow former world No. 1, who said on Wednesday that tennis is "full of lesbians" and that transgender children were the work of "the devil".

Court, a 74-year-old Australian tennis champion turned pastor, also claimed that an Australian programme tackling homophobic bullying in schools was the work of a "gay lobby" that was trying to "get (into) the minds of children".

Czech-American Navratilova, who married her long-term partner Julia Lemigova in 2014, has led calls for the Australian Open court to be renamed following Court's comments.

"We celebrate free speech, but that doesn't mean it is free of consequences - not punishment, but consequences," Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, wrote in an open letter published by Fairfax Media.

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"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.

"Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights. She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere.

"And now, linking LGBT to Nazis, communists, the devil? This is not OK."

Navratilova concluded the letter by suggesting the venue's name should be changed to the Evonne Goolagong Arena, after another Australian former world No. 1.

An online petition calling for the renaming of the court has attracted 3,700 signatures.

American tennis great Billie Jean King has backed Navratilova's call, as has the Dutch player Richel Hogencamp, who questioned whether players would feel comfortable competing on a court named in Court's honour.

The Australian former world No. 4 Samantha Stosur, who branded Court "crazy" on Wednesday, suggested that players might boycott the court at next year's Australian Open.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull waded into the row last week, rejecting the calls for the arena to be renamed.

"Whatever people may think about Margaret Court's views about gay marriage… she is one of the all-time greats and the Margaret Court Arena celebrates Margaret Court the tennis player," he said.

Tennis Australia has so far resisted the calls to rename the arena, saying last week that Court's views "are her own".

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2017, with the headline 'Navratilova urges renaming of Margaret Court Arena'. Print Edition | Subscribe