Two tennis greats are being reprimanded by Australian Open organizers for protesting 77-year-old legend, Margaret Court’s, LGBTIQ views. On Tuesday, January 28th, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova protested the naming of the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne Park. Instead, the pair propose the Arena be named after Evonne Goolagong.
Margaret Court is the most successful player of all time and won four grand slams in 1970. However, Court is condemned for her LGBTIQ views. McEnroe and Navratilova are two of these critics. Court has objected to LGBTQ teaching in schools and has compared LGBTQ teaching to the “work of the devil.” Court has also been quoted saying tennis is “full of lesbians.”
After Navratilova’s veterans match on Tuesday, she took to the umpire’s chair to protest the Arena’s naming. Television feed was cut off almost immediately. McEnroe and Navratilova then displayed a banner as they paraded around the court which read “Evonne Goolagong Arena”.
While Tennis Australia does not condone the views of Court, they also take issue with McEnroe and Navratilova’s protest. “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 [the] event.” In a statement, Tennis Australia addressed the pair’s protest by stating that “two high-profile guests have breached these protocols and we are working through this with them.”
We are seeing regulations like those imposed by Tennis Australia being enacted by major sports associations such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC recently banned protests while on the field of play, in the Olympic Village and during medal and other official ceremonies, and in turn is being criticized for restricting freedom of speech.
McEnroe and Navratilova are not without critics. Opponents of the protesters are condemning them, as well as Tennis Australia, for not respecting Court’s free speech. Court’s supporters believe that Tennis Australia should not comment on religious and political issues and argue Court is being persecuted based on her religious beliefs.
Margaret Court’s children also spoke out defending their mother’s statements. In an open letter, Court’s children wrote, “[i]t is disappointing to see Tennis Australia in the Open Letter amalgamating her sporting career which she won for her nation. We hope in this great nation of ours that generations to come will continue to have freedom of speech to stand for what they believe in.”