King weighs in on de­bate over re­nam­ing Mar­garet Court Arena

The Citizens' Voice - - Australian Open - BY JOHN PYE

MELBOURNE, Aus­tralia — Bil­lie Jean King thinks one of the main venues at the Aus­tralian Open should be re­named be­cause of Mar­garet Court’s com­ments about the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der com­mu­nity.

King, a pi­o­neer for equal­ity and di­ver­sity in ten­nis, said she had ini­tially been a pro­po­nent of hav­ing Mar­garet Court Arena named in recog­ni­tion of the 24-time Grand Slam sin­gles win­ner’s con­tri­bu­tion to the sport.

“I was fine un­til lately when she said so many deroga­tory things about my com­mu­nity — I’m a gay woman — about the LBGTIQ com­mu­nity,” King said at news con­fer­ence Fri­day. “That really went deep in my heart and soul.

“I per­son­ally don’t think she should have (her name on the sta­dium) any­more.”

She said if she was still com­pet­ing, she wouldn’t play on Mar­garet Court Arena.

King, one of the orig­i­nal pro­fes­sion­als in women’s ten­nis and win­ner of 12 ma­jor sin­gles ti­tles in the Open era, said she had reg­u­larly met with Court at tour­na­ments in the years since they re­tired af­ter “we grew up to­gether play­ing each other.”

The 75-year-old Court, who holds the record for most Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tles across the am­a­teur and Open eras, is now a Chris­tian pas­tor who lives in Perth, Western Aus­tralia, and is not at­tend­ing the tour­na­ment.

Court’s com­ments be­fore Aus­tralia voted in fa­vor of le­gal­iz­ing same-sex mar­riage were heav­ily crit­i­cized last year, with 18-time Grand Slam sin­gles win­ner Martina Navratilova writ­ing an open let­ter con­demn­ing the re­marks and urg­ing of­fi­cials to re­name the arena at Melbourne Park.

King said she wouldn’t pro­mote a boy­cott of the sta­dium, but en­cour­aged play­ers to “seek their own heart and mind” be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion.

King said she wished Court was in Melbourne so they could con­tinue the con­ver­sa­tion.

“You can have dis­cus­sion around it. I would be very wel­come to Mar­garet,” the 74-year-old King said. “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. It’s a pub­lic fa­cil­ity.”

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