Tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King has called for a renaming of Margaret Court Arena due to the Australian legend's divisive views on sexuality. If you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want somebody to have her name on something.
Australian Open organisers have made it clear they do not agree with Court's views, publicly and to Court herself, but have stopped short of pushing for a name change.
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". In 2017 Martina Navratilova, who came out as a lesbian after she was outed as bisexual in the 1980s, wrote an open letter urging the city of Melbourne to change the name of the Court Arena.
"When Rod Laver got given the arena, I said 'what are you going to do for Margaret?'".
King is being feted at Melbourne Park this month - on the 50th anniversary of her first Australian title - for her contribution to the sport and her pioneering support for women's rights and social justice. "That really went deep in my heart and soul".
"If I were playing today, I would not play in this court".
"I personally don't think she should have (her name on the stadium) anymore", King said, echoing a growing sentiment that began to emerge previous year after Court threatened to boycott Qantas airlines because of its support for marriage equality.
"I know it's not as easy as people think, but I personally don't think she should have her name anymore".
But as Court expressed openly derogatory ideas in the lead up to Australia's same-sex marriage plebiscite, King dropped her support for her former fellow tennis player.
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"I was fine until lately she said so many derogatory things".
King said she wouldn't promote a boycott of the stadium, but encouraged players to "look inside their heart" before making a decision.
Tournament director Craig Tiley said Court had a standing invitation to the season-opening major and would be welcome in the future.
In 2006, the U.S. Tennis Association named the site of the U.S. Open, located in a public park in NY, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
- Slammed Australian doubles player Casey Dellacqua after her partner, Amanda Judd, had given birth to a son, claiming the child's birth hinted at the threat of a "fatherless generation".
King said she would refuse to play on the arena if she was appearing at next week's tournament, but she wouldn't counsel others to do so.
"Maybe because of our community, the LGBTIQ community, people might feel differently, but we're all God's children".
King said it took her until she was 51 to feel comfortable in her own skin and deal with the "shame" of her sexuality.