It’s not often you see a sports organization call out a famous athlete’s homophobic views while also announcing its plans to promote her at its biggest event, but that’s the kind of dissonance required to invite Margaret Court to the Australian Open as a special guest.
After public pressure from the tennis great herself, Tennis Australia announced its plans to honor the 50th anniversary of Court’s first Grand Slam tournament win in her home country by welcoming her as a special guest at the 2020 Australian Open.
Among the organization’s plans are Court’s participation in a “significant program of events throughout the tournament,” the release of a mini-documentary filmed in Court’s home in Perth, a feature on Court’s achievement in tournament programs, and in-stadium entertainment dedicated to her career. Court’s 24 Grand Slam singles titles remain a record among all tennis players.
Tucked into the end of the statement — after 13 paragraphs of extolling Court’s accomplishments and quotes — is the reason why the organization waited so long to announce these plans.
Several tennis figures have denounced Court’s views
In the years since her retirement and beginnings as a Pentecostal minister, Court has frequently railed against the LGBTQ community. She has accused lesbians of ruining women’s tennis, opposed gay marriage and announced a boycott against Australia’s biggest airline for supporting gay marriage.
From The West Australian:
When asked a question on same-sex marriage, Court compared homosexual rights activists to Hitler and said children who identified as transgender were being influenced by the devil.
“That’s all the devil . . . but that’s what Hitler did and that’s what communism did - got the mind of the children. And there’s a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children."
Court also said homosexuality would destroy a person’s life.
“We’re there to help them (gay people) overcome. We’re not against the people,” she said.
Court’s unapologetic views have massively colored her legacy, to the point that fellow tennis greats Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, among others, have called for the Australian Open’s Margaret Court Arena to be renamed.
It’s with that context that Tennis Australia mentioned this toward the end of its statement:
As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years. They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.
Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.
That statement went on to promote the organization’s #Open4All initiative, then link out to an open letter explaining its decision to welcome Court to the tournament.
All of this comes after Court publicly complained that Tennis Australia had not asked to celebrate her accomplishment after doing the same for Aussie great Rod Laver in 2019.
“They brought Rod in from America. If they think I'm just going to turn up, I don't think that is right,” Court said. “I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don't really want to come.”
Court also insisted her opinions on same-sex marriage should, conveniently, hold no bearing on her hero’s welcome at the Australian Open. We’ll see if she gets get wish in 2020.
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