Tennis great Martina Navratilova has unofficially renamed Margaret Court Arena, launching an extraordinary on-court protest against the controversial minister.
Tennis great Martina Navratilova has unofficially renamed Margaret Court Arena, launching an extraordinary on-court protest against the controversial minister.

Tennis icon's extraordinary protest against ‘hateful’ Court

Tennis great Martina Navratilova has launched an extraordinary on-court protest against Margaret Court.

On the 50th anniversary of the Australian's slam sweep - which was celebrated at Rod Laver Arena on Monday - Navratilova, who has been vocal against the 24-time slam winner previously, has penned an open letter again slamming "hateful and hurtful" Court and calling for the arena named in her honour at Melbourne Park to be changed.

She also launched an on-court protest following her legends doubles match with American star John McEnroe, with the pair walking off court with a sign bearing the words "Evonne Goolagong Arena".

It has also been reported that Navratilova, who has won 18 grand slams, took to the chair umpire's microphone after the match but that a stream had been "cut".

Court has polarised the tennis community in recent years amid comments regarding the gay and transgender communities, which Navratilova has regularly criticised.

In the latest letter, she slammed the Australian tennis great and reignited the debate for Margaret Court Arena - Melbourne Park's secondary under-cover court - to be renamed.

"When airports, buildings, streets or stadiums are named after particular people, it is done, or at least should be done, to honor exceptional human beings - our heroes," Navratilova wrote in the letter which was published on TENNIS.com on Tuesday.

"Think Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Billie-Jean King, Rod Laver, Rosa Parks. Would it not be appropriate if the Staples Center were renamed as a tribute to Kobe Bryant?

"Such luminaries excelled in their fields and transcended them; they made a positive contribution to mankind; they led by example. And, perhaps most of all, they were on the right side of history.

"But Margaret Court does not belong in that company or category. 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.

Ash Barty with Evonne Goolagong at Edmonton Tennis Club, Cairns. Picture: Andrew Watson.
Ash Barty with Evonne Goolagong at Edmonton Tennis Club, Cairns. Picture: Andrew Watson.

"So, it pains me to say this, but Margaret Court Arena must be renamed."

Navratilova, a proud lesbian, wrote that she considered Goolagong to be "the embodiment of what a role model or hero truly is".

"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," she wrote.

"In our tennis 'family,' we celebrate the good values of our sport and we love how democratic and inclusive it has become, the way it has driven out prejudice and unfair exclusion.

 

"Yes, we have free speech in a democracy, but that doesn't mean that free speech doesn't have consequences. 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.

"Why not pick someone whom every child can look up to and want to emulate - a champion who inspires and motivates young and old to do their best and be their best every day?

"For me, that person is Evonne Goolagong.

"Evonne Goolagong Arena.

"Perfect."