The Australian Open’s Margaret Court Arena should be renamed because of the 11-time champion’s “derogatory” views on sexuality, says Billie Jean King.
Court, who holds the record for winning most Grand Slam singles titles at 24, is an opponent of gay marriage.
The second show court at Melbourne Park was renamed in the 75-year-old Australian’s honour in 2003.
“I’m a gay woman. If I were playing today, I would not play on it,” King, 74, said on Friday.
The American, who won 12 major singles titles, said she had originally backed Court to be honoured by the naming of the stadium, but the Australian’s outspoken views in recent years had changed her mind.
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Court, a Pentecostal pastor, has been a regular visitor to the Australian Open in recent years but has chosen to skip the event this month, choosing instead to go crab fishing in her native Western Australia.
“I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community. That really went deep in my heart and soul,” King told a news conference in Melbourne on Friday.
“I just feel like she’s gotten really derogatory. When she talks about the children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge.
“I wish she were here so we could further this discussion.”
King added that she would not encourage players to boycott matches, but that she did not believe Court’s name should be on the arena.
“I think if you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can’t imagine the public would want somebody [with those views] to have their name on something,” she said.
“Maybe because of our community, the LGBTIQ community, people might feel differently but we’re all God’s children.
“I probably don’t think it’s appropriate to have her name [on the stadium].”
Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, told the New York Times on Thursday: “You keep her in the Hall of Fame. That Margaret has definitely homophobic views does not take away those accomplishments, no doubt about that.
“But you do not name a building after her. Would you be naming a new building after her now? No, there’s no chance.”
Craig Tiley, Australian Open tournament director and CEO of Tennis Australia, said there were no plans to change the name of the stadium and that Court’s views did not echo those of the organisation or the sport.
“It’s up to a broader group of people,” he said of any move to rename the stadium.
“There’s the Trust, the tennis organisation in the facility, the [Victoria State] government who owns and redevelops the venue.
“There’s ongoing conversation but no formal process. We take our leadership and our position from the government.”