Margaret Court Arena, courtesy of Margaret Court Arena Facebook
On Saturday, American tennis great and out lesbian Billie Jean King joined calls for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed because of Margaret Court’s outspoken anti-LGBT stance. King was being named Australian Open Woman Of The Year in honour of her contribution to tennis and trailblazing support for women’s rights and equality, when she took the opportunity to speak out on LGBT rights.
“I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community — I'm a gay woman — about the LBGTIQ community," she said of Court.
“That really went deep in my heart and soul.”
“When she talked about children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge, I must say."
"I personally don't think she should have her name (on the arena) anymore. If you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want someone to have their name on something."
“It's really important if you're going to have your name on anything that you're hospitable, you're inclusive, you open your arms to everyone that comes,” King said. “It's a public facility.”
The 74 year old also said that she would refuse to play on the arena if she was still on the tennis tour today.
King was referring to comments Court, who is the founder and pastor of the Victory Life Centre in Perth, made in a May 2017 interview with Christian radio station Vision Christian Radio. In the rambling 40 minute radio interview, Court compared LGBT activists to Hitler, said that tennis is “full of lesbians” and that people turn gay because of abuse. The radio interview came after Court wrote an open letter to the West Australian Newspaper, announcing her boycott of Qantas because of their support for marriage equality.
Court has a long history of publicly voicing homophobic beliefs. In 2013, after Australian tennis player Casey Dellacqua and her partner Amanda Judd had a baby, Court wrote an open letter to the newspaper criticising Dellacqua and defending the traditional family. She wrote of her sadness for Dellaqua's baby and warned about rainbow families creating a "fatherless generation.”
Court’s husband fired back at King by issuing a statement on Saturday. The Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as saying Court “never made the statement that transgender children being of the devil."
"There should be no thought of changing the name."
“I suggest Billie Jean first check her facts before making allegations against my wife.”
“We have reputable sources review all her press releases and interviews and cannot trace these remarks back to Margaret.”
Below are excerpts from the radio interview, including Court’s comments about children and the devil.
“But with the bullying, and the stuff that’s put out today into children’s minds, I tell you what. If you haven’t got parents who bring you up that way and you’ve got parents that don’t care… your child can just start to think ‘well maybe I am a girl’ when they’re a boy.”
“You can think ‘Oh, I’m a boy’ and it’ll affect your emotions and feelings and everything else. That’s all the devil.” “That’s what Hitler did and that’s what communism did, got the minds of the children. There’s a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world, to get the minds of the children.”
"I mean, tennis is full of lesbians because even when I was playing there was only a couple there but those couple that lead ... took young ones into parties and things.” "And because they liked to be around heroes and what you get at the top is often what you will get right through that sport." Court insisted that her Church is here for gay people. “We’re there to help them overcome. We’re not against the people,” she said. “They’re human beings and 92 per cent, they say in America, have either been abused in some form sexually or emotionally at an early age for them to even be this way.”
During the controversy last year, many professional tennis players criticised Court and called for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed. Martina Navratilova wrote an open letter to Margaret Court Arena, explaining why she felt the arena should be re-named Evonne Goolagong Arena. "It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist 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 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."
Court continued her homophobia after Australia legalising same-sex marriage, saying “I think there will be a price to pay for it in the future in the nation and people will see it’s not about marriage. There will be a genderless generation.”
Court will not be attending the Australian Open this year.