Billie Jean King says Margaret Court arena's name should change

Billie Jean King says Margaret Court arena's name should change

American tennis legend Billie Jean King has called for the Margaret Court Arena at the Australian Open to have its name changed due to the former great's outspoken views on gay issues.

Court won 24 grand slam titles in a glittering career during the sixties and seventies, before becoming a church pastor in her native Australia.

"I personally don't think she should have her name [on the court] anymore".

King's stance was echoed by eighteen-time grandslam champion Martina Navratilova, who called Court a "homophobe" and deplored what she called "sick and dangerous" comments.

But she said she could no could longer support the flagship court bearing her friend's name because of her views on sexuality.

"But I think it's its really important, if you're going to have your name on anything, that you're hospitable, inclusive, you're opening arms to everyone that comes to a public facility".

"If you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want to have her name on something", she said.

'I would welcome Margaret, I would welcome whoever, whether I agree with them or not is not important.

"I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community - I'm a gay woman ..."

Court pictured during her victorious 1970 Wimbledon singles final against Billie Jean King.

Speaking to i ahead of the Australian Open, Dale Park, the co-convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said of renaming the Margaret Court Arena: "Mrs Court's sporting achievements are unquestionable, but her consistent attacks on the LGBTIQ community, including a fellow Australian tennis player [Casey Dellacqua] and their family, fall well short of community expectation".

King said if she was still competing, she wouldn't play on Margaret Court Arena.

Meanwhile, King, who just this week attended the Golden Globe Awards for the film Battle of the Sexes, about her famed match with self-professed male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs, is attending the Australian Open for the first time in eight years.

There were concerns that players at the Australian Open might refuse to play in the venue baring Court's name.

Court, who has opted to take a crabbing trip rather than attend the Australian Open tennis tournament that runs January 15-28, part of which will be played at the arena named for her, recently chastised the Australian people for voting overwhelmingly in favor of marriage equality in a mail-in ballot that Parliament then honored by making equality the law of the land.

Over time, King said, Court's comments about gays and lesbians "really went deep in my heart and soul".

"Our position hasn't changed", he told reporters.

"They're not the views of our organisation. they're not the views of our sport".

Court has been a fixture in the stands at the season's first grand slam but elected to skip the tournament this year, Tiley confirmed.

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