Billie Jean King, 74, is a former World No. 1 professional tennis player and is also an activist for gender equality. She continued her stance as an advocate for the LGBT community by suggesting a name change for the entertainment sports venue - the Margaret Court Arena, due to the homophobic comments dispensed by its namesake.
Court, a former Australian World No. 1 tennis player who became a Christian minister in Perth, Australia, took to Vision Christian Radio back in May to espouse derogatory opinions about lesbians.
"Tennis is full of lesbians," she said. "Even when I was playing there were only a couple there but [they] led young ones into parties. And what you get at the top is often what you’ll get right through that sport."
Court moved on by expressing her disdain for transgender people, calling them "the devil."
You can think, ‘Oh, I’m a boy’, and it will affect your emotions and feelings and everything else. That’s all the devil.
King was among many called upon to name the arena after Court in 2003, but the recent toxic comments made King retract any support for the stadium's present moniker.
At a news conference on Friday, Australian Tournament officials were thrown by King's response to Court's views on the LGBT community.
If I were playing today, I would not play on it [Margaret Court Arena]. I was fine until lately, when she said so many derogatory things about my community. I'm a gay woman, and that really went deep in my heart and soul. I personally don't think she should have her name [on the stadium] any more. If you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want somebody to have her name on something.
King has the site of the U.S. Open named after her - The Billie Jean King Tennis Centre in Queens, NY, and she talked about the responsibilities attached to having the honor.
Every time I see my name up there, I can hardly breathe because of the responsibility that goes with it. I would welcome Margaret, I would welcome Pentecostals, I would welcome whoever, whether I agree with them or not.
She also opened up about her personal struggles with her sexuality, and how hurtful Court's public remarks were.
I just think she's gotten really derogatory.When she talked about children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge because we're all God's children, all the best we can be. It took me until I was 51 to feel comfortable in my own skin. Shame-based things are very difficult, so that's the last thing we need. Children who are LGBT have a much higher rate of suicide, so for Margaret, or anybody, to be derogatory towards us, I just think is not healthy.
Twitter weighed in on the controversy.
First of all , Margaret Court is a tennis legend no doubt. Talking about the transgenders & LGBT being children from the devil it’s totally unacceptable and disgusting. When I start my career and if I ever play AustralianOpen,I will never play on that arena while it’s on her name— Darko Grncarov (@DarkoGrncarov) January 13, 2018
BillieJeanking— VIOLET CHOONGA (@VC60) January 12, 2018
Don't bring the American politics and hate to Australia
Her name stays, she earned it, And for that, Get over it my dear lady.
I also find MC's views nasty; but in a free society she's allowed to have them. Leave the name, it was given for sports reasons not political ones. MC is allowed to believe what she believes. If we go down this road then the Left becomes as much tyrants as Right has been.— Bridgit S Fara (@BridgitSFara44) January 12, 2018
But many sided with King on her side of the net.
Sadly, BJK is 100% right. Margaret Court is a big name in Australian sporting history, but she's kind of obliterated any standing she may have had with her extreme views. I'd love to see another Aussie sporting great's name on the stadium ie: Evonne Goolagong Arena— andyroz (@kiwiinvader) January 12, 2018
Agree with her completely.— halcali (@Hive_5) January 12, 2018
It's been difficult to even listen to her name being mentioned along with the likes of my hero Rod Laver.
Pretty grim comments here. Margaret Court has said absolutely disgusting things about LGBT people. I hope LGBT players on the tour refuse to play in the arena. People can respect her achievements without elevating her name to a building.— JJ (@JosJackhend98) January 12, 2018
I agree with @BillieJeanKing. I'm a woman, with a husband and 3 children, I don't think we should be looking up to someone who uses their fame and platform to throw shade at what they don't believe in. This is sport, keep your small minded comments out of tennis, @MargaretCourt— Be Mac (@BeConbay) January 13, 2018
Tennis Australia's chief executive Craig Tiley attempted to do some damage control for Court's toxic views on the LGBT community.
Our position has been pretty straightforward: Margaret’s views are her views. They are not the views of our organization and not the views of our sport. We’re inclusive, diverse, equal, and all the things Billie Jean said. As far as the name of the arena, that’s up to a broader group of people than just one person or one organization.
As for the name change, Tiley said the decision to come up with an alternative was not up to him.
It's up to a broader group of people. There's the Trust, the tennis organisation in the facility, the [Victoria State] government who owns and redevelops the venue.