Billie Jean King says it's time to rename Margaret Court Arena

Billie Jean King says it's time to rename Margaret Court Arena

Tennis hall of famer and WTA founding member Billie Jean King says Margaret Court Arena should be renamed because of Australian tennis great's views on homosexuality.

King is in Melbourne to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her Australian Open victory.

She has a tennis centre named after her in New York City and said the honour came with great responsibility.

The tennis champion admits that she was one of the proponents of the push to have part of the Rod Laver Arena named after Court in recognition of her tennis achievements, but says Court's comments about gender and sexuality have gone too far.

Court said people should vote no "for the sake of Australia, our children, and our children's children".

"If I were playing today, I would not play in this court".

"I think if you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want somebody [with those views] to have their name on something", she said. "But she's a Pentecostal minister with her own congregation so I don't think it will help much or that she will change or adapt in any way".

The 74-year-old American, who won 12 major singles titles, she had originally backed Court to be honoured by the naming of the stadium, but the Australian's outspoken views in recent years had changed her mind.

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King drew a contrast between herself and Martina Navratilova, who has been calling for the name to be changed since a year ago, saying she had needed to be "very reflective before I come out and say anything".

'That really went deep in my heart and soul. On the eve of the Australian Open, King has called for the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne to be renamed because of the Australian's controversial and divisive views on gay marriage.

Last year, fellow tennis star Martina Navratilova wrote an open letter in Fairfax Media calling for the arena to be renamed to remove all traces of the Australian champion.

"I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community; I'm a gay woman", King added. It's a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world, to get the minds of the children'.

"I wish Margaret was here this year", she said. I had long ago forgiven Court for her headline-grabbing comments in 1990 when she said I was a bad role model because I was a lesbian.

'But we're all God's children, so I probably don't think it's appropriate to have her name'.

"It's really important if you're going to have your name on anything that you're hospitable, you're inclusive, you open your arms to everyone that comes", King said. To honor King, organizers of the event named her the Australian Open's Woman of the Year and kicked off the "Open4All" initiative to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion, according to the AP. Whether any of the hundreds of players who might be assigned matches there would refuse to compete is yet unknown.

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