Tennis stars have expressed outrage at Australian tennis legend Margaret Court’s boycott of Qantas over its support for marriage equality.
The Grand Slam world record holder and Perth Christian pastor sparked a furore on Thursday by announcing in an open letter in a newspaper that she was boycotting the airline.
She wrote: “I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible. Your statement leaves me no option but to use other airlines where possible for my extensive travelling.”
Court explained in an interview on The Project on Friday night: “It’s because it’s in the Bible. My values even as a little girl and being brought up was that marriage was between a man and a woman, because the Bible says it and it’s in the beginning and God created man.”
She disagreed with hosts Waleed Aly and Meshel Laurie that most Australians supported marriage equality, even when confronted with polls suggesting between 60 and 70 per cent of people support the reform.
“I have nothing against homosexual people, they can lead their lives. But don’t touch marriage,” she said.
But US tennis champion Martina Navratilova, who married partner Julia Lemigova in 2014, said Court’s initial comments had gone “too far.”
She wrote: “Thank you Qantas for your support. And Margaret – you have gone too far. Shame on you… #wrongsideofhistory… Margaret Court has been attacking our LGBT community for decades, this is nothing new. But still.”
She added: “Maybe it’s time to change the name of [Melbourne venue] the Margaret Court Arena… and I guess Margaret will be taking the boat on her next trip? :)”
— Margaret Court Arena (@MCourtArena) May 25, 2017
— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) May 25, 2017
Australian player Casey Dellacqua tweeted her frustration with Court by posting a separate letter the 74-year-old had written criticising her family.
“Margaret. Enough is enough,” Dellacqua tweeted with a photo of the letter in which the 74-year-old laments the birth of Dellacqua’s child “deprived of a father” in a same-sex relationship.
Margaret. Enough is enough. pic.twitter.com/Cl1DtC4aSL
— caseydellacqua (@caseydellacqua) May 25, 2017
On Friday morning, even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull weighed in on the controversy and the calls to rename Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena.
He told radio station 3AW: “Whatever people think of her opinion on gay marriage, she is one of the all-time greats and the arena celebrates that.
“She is the greatest of greats of tennis and that’s why it’s named after her.”
Just.equal spokesperson Ivan Hinton-Teoh said Court is “entitled to express her views on marriage equality, as are people who believe these views are damaging and outdated.”
“We welcome confirmation overnight that both Tennis Australia and Melbourne and Olympic Parks that manage the [Margaret Court Arena] support equality,” he said.
“If Margaret Court is serious about boycotting businesses that support equality she has a decision to make about whether she wants her name to remain on a building that stands for equality, diversity and inclusion. The ball is in her court.”