Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Sport | By Cameron Gross

Tennis legend Billie Jean King wants Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne renamed

Tennis legend Billie Jean King wants Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne renamed

American tennis legend Billie Jean King has called for the Margaret Court Arena (MCA) to be renamed after homophobic comments from her former rival.

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.

I just feel like she's gotten really derogatory.

"When Rod Laver got given the arena, I said 'what are you going to do for Margaret?'".

However, she said comments from her friend a year ago blaming the devil for people being transgender "put her over the edge".

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

"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.

Over time, King said, Court's comments about gays and lesbians "really went deep in my heart and soul".

"I personally don't think she should have (her name on the stadium) anymore".

King ended her career with 12 major singles titles.

Unfortunately, the arena can not be named after King as the facility that hosts the United States Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., was christened the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006.

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King has often defended Court, and the arena, and her shift Friday was her strongest criticism to date.

"Maybe because of our community, the LGBTIQ community, people might feel differently, but we're all God's children".

Court, a fundamentalist Christian, has targeted same-sex parents - including Casey Dellacqua - and has argued for conversion therapy for gay people.

King said she would not promote a boycott of the stadium, but encouraged players to "seek their own heart and mind" before making a decision.

Court has announced she will not attend this month's tournament, although she denied she was avoiding the tournament after the controversy.

Australian ace Sam Stosur suggested there was little locker room chatter about the divisive issue.

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

"I think that if I'm going to have my name on anything ..."

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said there had been "conversations" about changing the name of the stadium but added there were no plans to do so.

- On apartheid in South Africa, she said in 1970: 'It is a tragedy that politics has come into sport.

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