YOU’RE NOT IN ROD’S LEAGUE
PEOPLE should have the “freedom” to say whatever e r they like in this country y but in the same e breath that doesn’t ’ t give them a licence ce to demean others rs and make them feel eel like rubbish.
Which is what t 24time grand slam champion ampion Margaret Court has done on many occasions over the past couple of decades. des
Court was an amazing player. Incredible. She won all four majors in 1970 and finished her career with 24 grand slam singles titles — the most in history.
She absolutely deserves recognition for the 50th anniversary of her grand slam year. And she’s getting it.
Most recently, Tennis Australia employed a film crew to interview Court and those closest to her about her achievements — over seven hours. The full celebration of Court’s 50th anniversary is yet to be revealed but one fact is clear — she isn’t being ignored.
She will be recognised, her on-court achievements respected, but it won’t be at the same magnitude as the great Rod Laver’s recent 50th anniversary celebrations. And that’s the way it should be.
It’s fair enough considering the hurtful, disrespectful and damaging things Court has said over decades which have affected those within the tennis community and outside of it.
Character counts on occasions like these.
Just because you were amazing with a tennis racquet doesn’t mean everyone should turn a blind eye to your bigotry over decades.
In the 1990s Court declared that lesbians were ruining women’s tennis.
She said that Martina Navratilova was “a great player” but that she’d “like someone at the top who the younger players can look up to”.
In 2017, she said gay marriage was causing huge problems in countries where it was legalised, that homosexuality was an ungodly “lust for the flesh” and that LGBT tendencies in young people were “all the devil”.
“That’s what Hitler did. That’s what communism did,” Court said, “get in the minds of the children.
“There’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get in the minds of the children.”
She boycotted Qantas when the company decided to support gay marriage.
When Australian tennis player turned commentator Casey Dellacqua and her partner Amanda had their first baby in 2013, Court wrote, “It is with sadness that I see that this baby has seemingly been deprived of a father.” Four years later Dellacqua, who knew Court well and played tennis with her in
Perth, said that
Court’s article caused her great pain.
“At “the time, I was really rea hurt. I mean, I was w actually a hurt know because MarI D Dellacqua garet g personally,” said, in 2017. 2 “I am very conscious sc of the fact that everyone eve is allowed their thei opinion, but when you start singling out my family especially, that’s when wh it’s not okay. And my family do not deserve to be b subject to that.”
The fact is you can’t liken some of the best Australian women to have played the game to the “devil”, and then expect Tennis Australia to roll out the red carpet for you on your 50th anniversary.
Does Court really expect that all in the tennis community will be adoring her and wildly cheering for her after expressing such abhorrent views about them or their peers?
It is understood Court’s opinions over the years have left players distraught and traumatised — who knows the impact of her words on the greater community?
Using “religious views” as a shield to make harmful statements really isn’t okay. And it is not washing in sport anymore.
An example of impressive leadership on an issue like this was when the New Australian Rugby League commissioner Peter V’landys addressed the media last week. V’landys was asked if footballer Israel Folau, who shares similar views to Court, would ever be welcomed back.
“The game is inclusive. Israel's comments are not inclusive,” V’landys said. But what V’landys, who emigrated from Greece to Australia as a four-year-old, said next was a powerful insight.
“When I was a kid and kids used to get bashed up because they were different,” V’landys said, “I used to go and defend them. And a lot of them, it’s because their role models or their peers made them that way. “I have no tolerance for people that put other people’s lives (at risk) or (commit) violence. It’s a big statement to make.
“With due respect to Israel, what he says, young kids listen to. He is a role model. They act on it. And when you’re a kid at school and you get bashed up because you’re different, I don't think that’s a good thing.”
It’s not a good thing. Leaders like V’landys are a breath of fresh air in sport. They’re gutsy, they think about everyone, and that’s incredibly important. Because the world has changed since Court completed a grand slam 50
Margaret aret Court rt and Ro Rod Laver. r Picture: Laver Family Private Collection