Tennis Great Martina Navratilova Backs Push To Rename Margaret Court Arena

At 74-years-old, Margaret Court‘s career of being an extremely good tennis player and an extremely shithouse human being seems to finally (albeit slowly) catching up with her.

Court’s latest media shitstorm over her long-held, outspoken, and staggeringly homophobic views have lead to increased calls for Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena to be renamed for someone more worthy of the honour, with some current pro-players hinting that next year’s Australian Open could be severely disrupted by boycotts of the court.
Tennis great Martina Navratilova has now thrown her considerable influence behind the push to rename the arena in an open letter penned to the court published by Fairfax Media today.
Addressing the arena itself directly (it’s a bit weird, we know), Navratilova firstly addresses the issue of why buildings are named for people in the first place; not a cherry-picked selection of their achievements, but for they are as a whole person.

“Sporting venues named for athletes, or any place, really, named for whoever, are so named for one reason. 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.”

From there, Navratilova asserts that – at the time – naming the arena for Court was the right decision, and that she’d “forgiven” Court for derogatory comments made in 1990 that Navratilova was a “bad role model” due to her sexuality. But Martina then reveals she was unaware of Court’s phenomenally racist comments made in the 70s (that have since come to light thanks to this latest dance with controversy) in which Court backed the apartheid regime in South Africa, and suggested they had the “problem” (i.e. the POC community) under control better than anyone, including the United States.

Navratilova, who married her long-term partner Julia Lemigova in 2014, explained then that Court’s comments do very little else but demonise and minimise the experience of LGBTQI youth, asserting that while it is absolutely important to celebrate free speech, this does not mean people have carte blanche to be insulated from criticism and consequence.

“It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. 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.”

“Kids will suffer more because of this continuous bashing and stigmatising of our LGBT community.”

“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.”

“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 rounds out the letter by suggesting that it might be far more apt for everyone – for all Australians – to instead name the arena for Evonne Goolagong: “a person we can all celebrate. On every level.

Couldn’t agree more, TBH.

Photo: Georges De Keerle/Getty.