Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has renewed calls for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed.
In an open letter published to Tennis.com, Navratilova argued that the second biggest stadium at Melbourne Park should be renamed Evonne Goolagong Arena, after another Australian tennis great.
The 7500 seat arena was named Show Court 1 until 2003 when it was re-christened as Margaret Court Arena.
But with 77-year-old Court’s long history of incendiary, homophobic and transphobic remarks and sermons, pressure has been growing to give the stadium another new moniker.
Tennis Australia has attempted to separate Court’s personal beliefs from her tennis record, but Navratilova believes it isn’t as easy as that.
Navratilova, who won 18 Grand Slam titles, argues that landmarks ought to be named after people to “honour excepetional human beings – our heroes.”
The nine-time Wimbledon champion gives the examples of Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela and Billie Jean King, but says Court doesn’t fit this description.
“But Margaret Court does not belong in that company or category,” she wrote.
“Nobody disputes her achievements on the tennis court, and her place in the sport’s history remains as distinguished as it gets.
“Nobody wants to take away or diminish her career, least of all me. Margaret, Billie Jean and Rod were my childhood heroes. I wanted to be like them.
“So, it pains me to say this, but Margaret Court Arena must be renamed.”
Navratilova instead argues that Evonne Goolagong is more worthy of having the stadium named after her.
“Evonne is the embodiment of what a role model or hero truly is,” she wrote.
“Her heritage, her success against the odds, her Hall of Fame career and her exemplary life off court, in which she has given so much of herself to so many causes, are all attributes we can celebrate wholeheartedly.”
One of the most widely used retorts amoung Court’s supporters is the free-speech argument, and Navratilova addresses it in her letter.
“Yes, we have free speech in a democracy, but that doesn’t mean that free speech doesn’t have consequences,” she said.
“When Margaret goes out of her way to single out a group of people and tell them they don’t deserve equal rights, that they are less than good parents, that they are not godly, that’s not merely free speech. It’s hateful and hurtful speech and it’s injurious to countless vulnerable people.”
On Monday night, Tennis Australia recognised Court’s tennis achievements with a ceremony on Rod Laver Arena.
The ceremony was accompanied by a short tribute video which both drew criticism from around the world.
Source: Brendan Bradford