“The platform people like Margaret Court use needs to be made smaller, not bigger.”
For a handful of legendary athletes, reconciling their on-the-field performance with their off-the-field controversies can be difficult. Especially in sports, where great achievements are often market by public displays. Major League Baseball has had a hard time dealing with Pete Rose’s past gambling issues. The University of Southern California has had difficulty coming to grips with football star and convicted robber and kidnapper, O.J. Simpson’s legacy. Now, Australian Open organizers are wrangling over changing the name of Margaret Court Arena after her inflammatory remarks about the LGBTQ community.
With 24 Grand Slam singles titles, Court is undeniably a legend in the world of tennis. But recently, she’s come under fire for the venomous anti-gay statements she made to Christian Vision Radio.
Court on gay tennis players:
“Tennis is full of lesbians. Even when I was playing, there were only a couple there, but [they] led young ones into parties. And what you get at the top is often what you’ll get right through that sport.”
Court on transgender people:
“You can think, ‘Oh, I’m a boy,’ and it will affect your emotions and feelings and everything else. That’s all the devil.”
Court on gay rights advocates...
“The gay lobby is behind that bullying program in schools and children not knowing, whether they are taking out a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ and an ‘it’ and a ‘we’ or ‘they’ and if you feel like being a girl you can dress like a girl. I think, ‘what confusion for a child,’ I get confused talking about it. ... There is a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world today to get the minds of the children...That’s what Hitler did, that’s what Communism did — got the mind 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’s statements inspired another female tennis legend, Martina Navratilova, to call upon Australian Open organizers to change the arena’s name. “We should not be celebrating this kind of behavior, this kind of philosophy,” Navratilova said in an open letter. “The platform people like Margaret Court use needs to be made smaller, not bigger.”
The controversy has also attracted the attention of tennis’s most notoriously vocal player, John McEnroe. On Eurosport’s Game, Set, and Mats, McEnroe revealed his solution for the court controversy. “Keep the name and when same-sex marriage becomes legal in Australia, I will personally call my good friend, Elton John, to host the biggest same-sex mass wedding ceremony ever seen in Margaret Court Arena.”
The best thing John McEnroe has done in years.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 4, 2017\n
On Eurosport, on Margaret Court: pic.twitter.com/xjej1IBUIM
McEnroe also commented on Court’s statements about the number of lesbians in the sport with his usual bluntness: “Number one: This is true, and who gives a fuck? Number two: This is not true, and who should give a fuck? And number three: This is half-true and should we really give a fuck?”