Tennis stars Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe have ticked off Tennis Australia with a protest against Margaret Court at the Australian Open.
On Monday, Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams was controversially honoured, with Rod Laver presenting her with a special trophy at the Open.
But Navratilova, who is openly lesbian, wrote an open letter slamming Court. She also again called for the renaming of Margaret Court Arena.
And on Tuesday Navratilova and American star John McEnroe walked off the court holding up a sign reading “Evonne Goolagong Arena”.
In the letter, Navratilova slammed Court and said Australia couldn’t honour her as a sporting hero because of her homophobic views.
“Yes, we have free speech in a democracy, but that doesn’t mean that free speech doesn’t have consequences,” she wrote.
“Margaret goes out of her way to [tell] a group of people they don’t deserve equal rights, that they are less than good parents, that they are not godly. That’s not merely free speech.
“It’s hateful and hurtful speech and it’s injurious to countless vulnerable people.”
Looks like @Martina got up onto the umpire's chair at the end of her match today to make a speech. Unfortunately the stream on Eurosport cuts off just after the first words. pic.twitter.com/p4eI9krT1F
— Lee (@yelnats_eel) January 28, 2020
This came after. I don't know who to credit the picture to. pic.twitter.com/EOECYF10yR
— Lee (@yelnats_eel) January 28, 2020
Navratilova said she believes Court “does not belong in the company” of the likes of Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Billie Jean King, Rod Laver or Rosa Parks.
“So, it pains me to say this, but Margaret Court Arena must be renamed.”
Tennis Australia say they ‘breached protocols’
In response, Tennis Australia said Navratilova and McEnroe breached Australian Open protocols with the protest.
“We embrace diversity, inclusion and the right for people to have a view, as well as their right to voice that view,” TA said.
“But the Australian Open has regulations and protocols with respect to how any fan, player or guest can use our facility, the event and the global stage it provides. This is to ensure the integrity of our event.
“Two high-profile guests have breached these protocols and we are working through this with them.”
Tennis Australia previously said they would honour Court’s sporting achievements, but do not agree with her personal views.
Later, speaking to the Tennis Channel, Martina Navratilova said she had “got in trouble” with Tennis Australia.
“I am sorry I broke protocol, I had no idea there was this kind of protocol. Had I known I would have done it differently,” she said.
“But I would still have tried and made my statement… You name buildings after not what people just did on the court but also off the court, the whole body of work.
“I stand by that, but I do apologise for breaking protocol.”
John McEnroe takes aim at ‘crazy aunt’ Margaret Court
American seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe earlier savaged Margaret Court in a satirical video for broadcaster Eurosports.
“This year marks the 50th anniversary of Margaret Court’s Grand Slam, and Tennis Australia faces a dilemma: ‘What do they do with their crazy aunt?’” McEnroe said.
“There’s only one thing longer than the list of Margaret Court’s tennis achievements: it’s her list of offensive and homophobic statements.
“Just a few examples. During the apartheid regime in South Africa, she said: ‘I love South Africa. They have the racial situation better organised than anyone else.’ What?!
“About transgender children and LGBTIQ: ‘It’s all the work of the devil.’
“‘Tennis is full of lesbians. It’s sad for children to be exposed to homosexuality.'”
“Margaret Court is actually a ventriloquist using the bible as a dummy to say whatever she wants.”
McEnroe then begged Serena Williams to overtake Court’s record with two more Grand Slams this year “so we can leave [her] and her offensive views in the past, where they both belong.”
"Please win two more Grand Slams so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past where she belongs"
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) January 26, 2020
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