With the French Open in full swing, there are calls within the tennis community to change the name of the Margaret Court Arena, because Court recently said “tennis was full of lesbians” and has in the past praised South Africa’s apartheid regime.
The Australian Court is a now 74 year-old Christian minister, but once held the number one spot in the world for women’s tennis, and has more tennis titles than any other player in the history of the sport.
Tennis icon Martina Navratilova, who is openly gay, wrote an open letter to the arena on Thursday morning saying that sporting venues named for athletes, or persons of note should take into consideration “who they are as human beings.”
In the letter she says that at the time the arena was named she 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.”
However, she noted that she would have had a harder time forgiving the “unabashed racist statements she made in the ’70s about apartheid in South Africa. Saying that South Africa dealt with the “situation” (meaning people of color) much better than anywhere else in the world, particularly the US: what exactly did she mean by that?,” the Czech and American coach asks.
Racism in tennis has reared its head for many years as seen with the travails of Venus and Serena Williams.
“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 demonizing trans kids and trans adults everywhere.
How much blood will be on Margaret’s hands because kids will continue to get beaten for being different? This is not OK. Too many will die by suicide because of this kind of intolerance, this kind of bashing and yes, this kind of bullying. This is not OK.”
She declared Court’s assertion that the LGBT community is linked to Nazis and the devil as ridiculous, concluding, “We celebrate free speech, but that doesn’t mean it is free of consequences—not punishment, but consequences.
Which is why I think it’s time to change your name.”
CBS Sports reports that players already threatening to boycott the arena if the name isn’t changed, and says that the National Tennis Centre at Melbourne Park, where Margaret Court Arena is located, “has already distanced itself from the comments, but may find it harder and harder to stand its ground as these statements continue to crop up and they get closer to January, when the Australian Open is set to begin.”