Kolkata: The comments that former Australian women tennis player Margaret Court made at a Christian radio station when she said that tennis is, “full of lesbians” wasn’t appreciated by others in the tennis fraternity as eighteen time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova hit back at Court calling her a, “racist and a homophobe.”
She also demanded for a change of name of the ‘Margaret Court Arena’ which is one of the main show courts at the Australian Open.
Navratilova, a former Czech and American player, a coach and a lesbian herself wrote an open letter the Margaret Court Arena in the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday morning where she said, “We should not be celebrating this kind of behaviour.”
She also mentioned in the letter that a person’s work ,their achievements along with their personality should be considered before they are honoured.
However this isn’t the first instance of Navratilova having issues with Court. Things date back to 1990 when Court had said that Navratilova wasn’t a good role model for the upcoming generation of tennis players because she is a lesbian. Although she was able to forgive Court for these headline-grabbing insulting comments, she adds that she would have had a harder time doing the same had she known earlier about the Australian’s comments on apartheid in the 1970’s where she had said, “South Africa dealt with the ‘situation’ (meaning people of colour) much better than anywhere else in the world; particularly the US.”
She further said in the letter, “It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe.”
She also derided Court’s thoughts when she said that the LGBT community is linked to the Nazis and the devil. She also criticised Court’s, “ridiculous comments” when she said that how older tennis players would lure younger members of the game to become lesbians.
She labelled these actions as, “bullying” and said that famous sporting venues are named after people for, “who they are as human beings” and, “not what they did on the field.”
“The platform people like Margaret Court use needs to be made smaller, not bigger,” said Navratilova
She also added that although they enjoy a freedom of speech and Court too, was using this freedom, there are repercussions which come along with such insulting comments. “We celebrate free speech…But that doesn’t mean it is free of consequences – not punishment, but consequences.”
Navratilova however believes that the Margaret Court Arena be named after the 14- time Grand Slam winner of Australian aboriginal descent Evonne Goolagong.
“I think the Evonne Goolagong Arena has a great ring to it,” she said. “Now there is a person we can all celebrate. On every level.”
Tennis Australia is however trying their best to keep apart Court’s comments and her achievements as a player in a bid to not change the name of the arena, but they would find it hard to maintain their stand after pressures from figures like Martina Navratilova.
British tennis star Andy Murray who is a member of the ATP Players Council, said that it is indeed very difficult for players to boycott a particular court in a Grand Slam but suggested that they could all agree on a collective stand, which would create headaches for Tennis Australia.
(With inputs from bbc.com and cbssports.com)