The tennis great published an op-ed in The Sydney Morning Herald today slamming Court as a “racist and a homophobe” who is “demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere.”
In the piece Navratilova addresses the Margaret Court Arena, named in honor of the tennis star, and calls for the venue to be renamed in light of Court’s outrageous statements.
“Sporting venues named for athletes, or any place, really, named for whoever, are so named for one reason,” 18-time Grand Slam champion wrote. “That reason is their whole body of work. In other words, it is not just for what this person did on the field, on the court, in politics, arts or science, for instance, but also for who they are as human beings.”
Navratilova noted that 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” but “did not know about until now were the unabashed racist statements she made in the ‘70s about apartheid in South Africa.” Equally as troubling to Navratilova are Court’s recent comments about queer people.
“I mean, tennis is full of lesbians, because even when I was playing there was only a couple there, but those couple that led took young ones into parties and things,” Court, the winner of a record 24 Grand Slam single titles, said on Vision Christian Radio. She added, “God’s got so much in [the Bible] about the mind, how it affects us, affects our emotions, our feelings,” before addressing transgender children. “You can think ‘Oh, I’m a boy’ and it’ll affect your emotions and feelings, and everything else and so that’s all the devil. That’s what Hitler did. That’s what Communism did ― got the minds of the children. And it’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.”
Court, a senior pastor at Perth’s Victory Life church, also recently announced she is boycotting Qantas Airlines over the company’s support of marriage equality.
“It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe,” Navratilova asserted in her open letter. “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).”
Noting that homophobia and transphobia can have very real consequences for queer people, Navratilova wondered, “How much blood will be on Margaret’s hands because kids will continue to get beaten for being different?” before noting, “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.”
Navratilova isn’t alone in her disgust over Court’s comments. Tennis star Andy Murray, singer-songwriter Ryan Adams, who played Margaret Court Arena last week, and others have also taken her to task for her statements.
When asked about a potential boycott of the Australian Open early next year, Murray, an advocate of same-sex marriage, said he hopes the controversy is finished, one way or another, long before the event begins.
“For players to be in a position where you’re in a slam and boycotting playing on the court, I think would potentially cause a lot of issues,” he recently said. “So I think if something was going to be happen and the players come to an agreement, if they think the name should be changed or whatever, that should be decided before the event starts ... but I would imagine a lot of the players would be pretty offended. So we’ll see what happens.”