Tennis legend Billie Jean King wants Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne renamed

Ruben Hill
January 13, 2018

Court, a born-again Christian and Pentecostal pastor, has said that tennis is "full of lesbians" and that transgender children are "the work of the devil".

King said she wished Court was in Melbourne so they could continue the conversation. Shame-based things are very hard so that's the last thing we need'. "If they're feeling that they are the opposite gender to what they are, you have no idea what they go through".

Speaking to i ahead of the Australian Open, Dale Park, the co-convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said of renaming the Margaret Court Arena: "Mrs Court's sporting achievements are unquestionable, but her consistent attacks on the LGBTIQ community, including a fellow Australian tennis player [Casey Dellacqua] and their family, fall well short of community expectation".

King is attending the Australian Open for the first time in eight years, marking the 50th anniversary of her Australian title. "I think if you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want somebody [with those views] to have their name on something", she added. I just think she's gotten really derogatory.

Billie Jean King, right, attended the Golden Globes Awards this week with Emma Stone, who portrayed her in the film Battle of the Sexes.

"I was fine until lately she said so many derogatory things about my community".

How did Margaret Court react to the players' threat?

"I think it's really important if you're going to have your name on anything that you're hospitable and you're inclusive, you're open arms to everyone who comes", she said. "[A name change] is up to a broader group of people and not up to one person or organization".

Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova are the latest former players to encourage a re-branding of the Melbourne court with both saying they would refuse to play in the stadium
Tennis legend Billie Jean King wants Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne renamed

9th July 1973: Margaret Court (nee Smith) of Australia in action at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

"I don't think she should have her name (on it) any more". Would you be naming a new building after her now?

King, one of the original professionals in women's tennis and victor of 12 major singles titles in the Open era, said she had regularly met with Court at tournaments in the years since they retired after "we grew up together playing each other". The two used to play against each other and came from the same generation of players.

Court's non-appearance at the Open - which overlaps Melbourne's annual queer festival Midsumma - is likely to lessen the likelihood of demonstrations.

"I was looking forward to seeing her, we usually sit together. We're inclusive, diverse and equal", he said. "I personally don't think she should have her name (on it) any more", King, 74, told reporters at Melbourne Park.

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.

When the arena was named after Court in 2003, King supported it.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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