Australian Open: Billie Jean King wants Margaret Court Arena renamed

Gordon Reid of Great Britain in action during the mens final against Alfie Hewett of Great Britain on day five of The NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters

Tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King has called for a renaming of Margaret Court Arena due to the Australian legend's divisive views on sexuality.

King, who fought for equal pay in tennis in the early '70s and who subsequently launched the Women's Sports Foundation in 1974 in part to protect Title IX, the federal law passed in 1972 to ban gender-based discrimination in education, said that if Court were in Melbourne for the tournament, she'd be open to continuing a discussion about inclusion, emphasizing that accepting a public space with one's name on it comes with responsibility to all who enter there.

A contemporary of King, 75-year-old Court is a Christian pastor and has campaigned against same-sex marriage, which recently became legal in Australia after a plebiscite last year.

She later claimed tennis was "full of lesbians" and that transgender children were the result of a Nazi-style "plot" to brainwash the minds of young people.

In 2017 Martina Navratilova, who came out as a lesbian after she was outed as bisexual in the 1980s, wrote an open letter urging the city of Melbourne to change the name of the Court Arena.

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King said it took her until she was 51 to feel comfortable in her own skin and deal with the "shame" of her sexuality.

Court remains the all-time leader for Grand Slam titles in the women's game with 24 wins, one clear of Serena Williams. "I would be very welcome to Margaret", said King, 74.

"I think 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".

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

"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 a news conference. "Maybe because of our community, the LGBTIQ community, people might feel differently", she said. "We are all God's children, so I probably don't think it's appropriate to have her name". When Rocket, Rod Laver, got given the arena, I said: "what are you going to do for Margaret?"

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King said she would not encourage players to boycott matches in the showcourt over Court's views, however.

Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam singles victor, wrote an open letter a year ago criticizing Court and recommended that tennis officials rename the arena after another Australian great, Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

Court has announced she will not attend this month's tournament, although she denied she was avoiding the tournament after the controversy. They are not the views of our organisation and not the views of our sport. But if you ask me, South Africa has the racial situation rather better organised than anyone else, certainly much better than the United States'.

King said she wished Court, who lives in Perth, Western Australia, was in Melbourne so they could continue the conversation.

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