Two legendary tennis players are calling for the renaming of Australia’s Margaret Court Arena due to the namesake’s biblical views on marriage and sexuality.
John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova held an on-court protest Tuesday and unfurled a banner after their legends doubles match, urging officials to remove Margaret Court’s name off the arena that hosts Australian Open matches.
Like McEnroe and Navratilova, Court is a tennis legend, having won the most women’s Grand Slam singles titles (24) in the history of the sport and the most Grand Slam titles among all disciplines (64) when including doubles and mixed doubles.
But Court, 77, is now a Pentecostal pastor. In 1995 she founded a church, Victory Life Centre, where she serves as senior pastor.
McEnroe and Navratilova held a banner reading, “Evonne Goolagong Arena” – their suggestion for the arena’s new name. Goolagong is an Australian who won seven Grand Slam women’s singles titles.
Navratilova then climbed in the umpire’s chair and addressed the crowd.
“I’ve been speaking out about an issue for a while now and John McEnroe is here to join me and push the conversation forward,” she said before the television feed was cut off, according to CNN.
Court’s outspoken views on marriage and sexuality have stirred controversy. She opposes same-sex marriage and believes sex is reserved for a married man and a woman. She recently said in a sermon of children changing genders at a young age: “When children are making the decision at 7 or 8 years of age to change their sex … no, just read the first two chapters of Genesis; that’s all I say. [God] made male and female.
“It’s so wrong at that age because a lot of things are planted in this thought realm at that age,” Court said. “And they start to question, ‘What am I?’ No – if you are a Christian … you believe the Word of God. This is our TV Guide to life … And you have got young people taking hormones and having changes, by the time they are 17 they think, ‘Now I’m a boy and really I was a girl.’”
She told her congregation, “We’re to love people.” She said of the temptation to sin, “What’s impossible to man is possible to God.”
Court also predicted “many problems” in women’s sports due to the transgender issue.
The venue was renamed the Margaret Court Arena in 2003.
Navratilova recently penned a Tennis.com column explaining her position.
“Nobody disputes her achievements on the tennis court, and her place in the sport's history remains as distinguished as it gets,” Navratilova wrote. “Nobody wants to take away or diminish her career, least of all me. Margaret, Billie Jean and Rod [Laver] were my childhood heroes. I wanted to be like them. So, it pains me to say this, but Margaret Court Arena must be renamed.”
In 2017, Court announced she was boycotting Australia’s Qantas airlines over its promotion of same-sex marriage.
“I am disappointed that Qantas has become an active promoter for same-sex marriage,” Court said at the time. “I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Dan Istitene/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.