Martina Navratilova demands renaming of Margaret Court Arena after 'racist and homophobic' comments

Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore at Singapore Sports Hub, October 29, 2016. Navratilova wants the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed due to the Australian's "racist and homophobic" language. Clive Brunskill/Getty

Martina Navratilova, the 18-time tennis Grand Slam champion, has penned an open letter calling for the renaming of the Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park after the Australian’s “racist and homophobic” comments.

Navratilova’s letter comes after Court, a former world No.1, said she would boycott Qantas airline “where possible” due to its support of same-sex marriage. “I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible,” Court, 74, said in March, as quoted by The Guardian.

On Wednesday, speaking to a Christian radio station, Court said "tennis is full of lesbians" and that she believed transgender children are the work of "the devil." 

Melbourne Park is the venue the Australian Open every January.

Navratilova opted to respond through a letter in The Sydney Morning Herald, where she wrote: “We celebrate free speech, but that doesn't mean it is free of consequences—not punishment, but consequences.

“We should not be celebrating this kind of behaviour, this kind of philosophy. The platform people like Margaret Court use needs to be made smaller, not bigger.”

Navratilova said she had forgiven Court, who has 24 Grand Slam titles, for comments she made in 1990, when she said the Czech-American was a bad role model due to her homosexuality. But Navratilova went on to explain that she was unaware of Court’s remarks about the apartheid regime in South Africa.

“South Africa has the racial situation rather better organized than anyone else, certainly much better than the United States,” the Australian said in 1970, according to the BBC.

“It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe,” Navratilova wrote. “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). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere.”

On Wednesday, men’s world No.1 Andy Murray also questioned Court’s views. “I don’t see why anyone has a problem with two people who love each other getting married,” he said, as quoted by The Times.

But Murray also believes an effort to change the name of the venue should be made in the lead up to next year’s Australian Open.

Navratilova finished her letter by suggesting the venue in Melbourne be renamed as the Evonne Goolagong Arena, a 14-time Grand Slam winner of Aboriginal descent, adding: “Now there is a person we can all celebrate. On every level.”