Martina Navratilova calls for renaming of Australian Open arena after Margaret Court's 'homophobic' remark

Shannon Scovel

For Martina Navratilova, the pen may be mightier than the racquet.

While numerous tennis stars, including No. 1-ranked Andy Murray, have recently spoken out against 24-time Grand Slam winner Margaret Court for her comments on gay marriage, Navratilova took her criticism a step further. The Czech-American tennis player explained her thoughts on Court’s statements through a sharp and lengthy letter pushing for the renaming of Margaret Court Arena, home to the Australia Open.

Navratilova wrote that she respected her colleague as an athlete but declared that Court’s recent comments – that she will not fly Qantas because the Australian airline “has become an active promoter for same-sex marriage” – demonstrate “exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe.”

“We should not be celebrating this kind of behaviour, this kind of philosophy,” Navratilova wrote. “The platform people like Margaret Court use needs to be made smaller, not bigger.”

This is not the first time Navratilova has expressed her frustration with Court’s public comments. In 1990, Navratilova explained that Court had called her a “bad role model because I was a lesbian,” but she had forgiven Court at the time. Now, 27 years later, Navratilova is taking a harsher stance. She argues that Court’s negative comments could cause harm to children because they contribute to the “stigmatizing of our LGBT community,” Navratilova wrote.

“How much blood will be on Margaret’s hands because kids will continue to get beaten for being different? This is not OK,” Navratilova’s letter said. “Too many will die by suicide because of this kind of intolerance, this kind of bashing and yes, this kind of bullying. This is not OK.”

Navratilova’s letter, formally addressed to Margaret Court Arena but written in a way that its contents reach a broader audience beyond just tennis fans, ends with a call to action, a call for change and a call for a different name to celebrate. She urges the Margaret Court Arena to “change your name” and instead recognize the career and contributions of Evonne Goolagong, another Australian tennis star, and “a person we can all celebrate.”