Speaking your mind sometimes comes at a price. For Margaret Court, it ought to be her name on the arena at the Australian Open.
Court’s discriminatory views toward gays and lesbians have put organizers of the year’s first major in a tough position. While there is no arguing with her stature as one of tennis’ greats, her 24 Grand Slam titles more than any other man or woman, having her name on one of the prime courts at Melbourne Park is tantamount to an endorsement of her small-mindedness.
Or, as Martina Navratilova put it, by slapping somebody’s name on a building, you’re recognizing the entire person, not simply one facet of his or her life.
“It is not just for what this person did on the field, on the court, in politics, arts or science, for instance, but also for who they are as human beings,” Navratilova wrote in a letter published Thursday in The Sydney Morning Herald.
“… It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe.”
The firestorm began last week, when Court threatened to boycott Qantas airlines because of its support for same-sex marriage. In a radio interview Wednesday, she said “tennis is full of lesbians” and transgendered people were the work of “the devil.”
Court’s intolerance is nothing new. She criticized Navratilova back in 1990, saying she wasn’t a good role model because she’s a lesbian. Four years ago, she said Australia’s Casey Dellacqua and partner Amanda Judd had “deprived” their newborn son of his father.
She also defended apartheid in South Africa, which was nothing more than legalized racism.
But as society’s views have evolved and the majority of folks have come to realize that people of different colors, creeds and sexual orientation aren’t so different after all, Court’s bigotry has become harder and harder to excuse.
That’s clear at the French Open, where player after player has criticized Court. Some have even suggested, like Navratilova, that Court’s name should be removed from the show court.
“If that comes up, I’m sure there’s many people who would be for that,” American Madison Keys said earlier this week.
Court has a right to her opinions, no matter how objectionable they might be. She also has a right to express them. But our words and actions carry consequences, and it’s no longer appropriate to keep Court’s name on an arena at the Australian Open.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.