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The celebration for anti-LGBT tennis player Margaret Court at the Australian Open was majorly awkward

Nick Duffy January 28, 2020
Former Australian tennis player Margaret Court poses with a replica of the trophy to commemorate 50 years of her Australian grand slam win

Former Australian tennis player Margaret Court poses with a replica of the trophy to commemorate 50 years of her Australian grand slam win (GREG WOOD/AFP via Getty Images)

The Australian Open commemorated the achievements of anti-LGBT tennis player Margaret Court on Monday.

The Melbourne tournament took time to mark the 50th anniversary of the Australian player’s landmark quadruple Grand Slam victory – but the moment was beset with tension on all sides, as Court is now as known for her anti-LGBT tirades as she is for her tennis.

The former Australian tennis legend has previously claimed transgender children are “of the devil,” likened gay people to Hitler and claimed lesbian tennis players “recruit” younger athletes.

During the muted ceremony on Monday, Australia’s 2018 Homophobe of the Year was presented with a trophy by another former tennis pro, Rod Laver.

However, she was not permitted to address the crowd live, with a video tribute playing instead.

Court did not receive a standing ovation and was met by scattered boos from the crowd, while one onlooker pointedly waved a rainbow Australian flag.

The low-key celebrations, stripped of much pomp and circumstance, come amid calls for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed over the tennis player’s views.

Margaret Court faces protests from fellow pros at Australian Open

Former tennis pros John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova made an on-court protest after a legends match at the Margaret Court Arena on Tuesday, carrying a sign bearing the slogan “Evonne Goolagong Arena” in reference to another Australian female tennis pro.

Hitting out at Court prior to the stunt, McEnroe said: “There’s only one thing longer than the list of Margaret Court’s tennis achievements: it’s her list of offensive and homophobic statements.

“Margaret Court is actually a ventriloquist using the bible as a dummy to say whatever she wants.”

Margaret Court was met with indifference at the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia.
Margaret Court was met with indifference at the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

He condemned Tennis Australia’s justification for honouring the anniversary of Court’s win, saying: “Well, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t separate the person from the achievements.”

Martina Navratilova agreed: “It’s just unfortunate because I think what Margaret Court doesn’t realise is how many people she hurts with her rhetoric. She can believe whatever she wants but she’s actually hurting people and that’s not OK.”

Tennis body distances itself from former star

Tennis Australia has attempted to distance itself from Court while also commemorating her.

The body said in a statement: “Tennis Australia respects Court’s unmatched tennis career and welcomes her to the Australian Open, particularly in this milestone anniversary year.

“As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Court’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.”

More: australian open, margaret court, tennis

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