In an open letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Martina Navratilova lashed out at 74-year-old Australian tennis legend Margaret Court for her “unabashed racist statements” and a spate of homophobic and racist remarks. Among the offending remarks were comments about homosexuality being “lust for the flesh” and that openly LGBTQI children were “all the devil.”
In an interview with Neil Johnson on Vision Christian Radio, Margaret compared gay people to Hitler’s Nazis. According to Mrs. Court, nowadays, professional tennis is “full of lesbians” who were allegedly trying to convert child players into a life of homosexuality.
“That’s what Hitler did. That’s what communism did, get in the minds of the children. There’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get in the minds of the children.”
Martina Navratilova, a gay sports icon of Czech origin, decided that the best way to respond to Mrs. Court’s comments was to pen an open letter which she metaphorically addressed to the tennis arena named after Margaret Court.
“When you were named after Margaret Court, it seemed like the right thing to do. After all, Rod Laver already had the big stadium and Court is one of the all-time greats. I had long ago forgiven Court for her headline-grabbing comments in 1990 when she said I was a bad role model because I was a lesbian.”
Navratilova then brought up Mrs. Court’s controversial views about South Africa’s Apartheid regime. Navratilova said she had only recently discovered the “unabashed racist statements [Mrs. Court] made in the ’70s about apartheid in South Africa.” Martina wanted to know “what exactly did she mean by that?”
In an article that was published in the Guardian newspaper on January 30, 1970, a group of international tennis federations were trying to rally support for a boycott of Apartheid South Africa. In response to the move, Margaret Court told the newspaper that “South Africans have this thing [racial oppression and segregation] better organized than any other country, particularly America,” and added that she loved South Africa and would “go back there anytime.”
Margaret Court really was the go-to apartheid cheerleader in tennis; thought the USA needed it as well (Guardian, 30.1.70) pic.twitter.com/xSN5DWAHJJ— Pauline Pantsdown (@PPantsdown) May 28, 2017
Margaret Court later dismissed Navratilova’s accusations of racism, claiming that the fact that she had played tennis with Evonne Goolagong Cawley – an Aboriginal Australian and former World Number One tennis superstar – in Apartheid South Africa.
“Evonne and I went in there and played for the black people. I have 35 cultures in my church and I love them all. I think it’s very sad and sick it’s being brought up now.”
In Mrs. Court’s opinion, she was being bullied by Navratilova, whose condemnation was later echoed by another former tennis player, Casey Dellacqua, who had recently also been criticized by Mrs. Court.
In a newspaper clipping shared on Twitter by Dellacqua, we see a letter to the editor that Court wrote, discussing Casey Dellacqua and her wife, Amanda Judd. The couple had appeared in a previous article celebrating the birth of their son. In the letter, Margaret says that she has “nothing against Casey Dellacqua or her ‘partner’ [sic],” but expressed that she was sad to see “that this baby has seemingly been deprived of a father.”
However, Dellacqua took to Twitter to hit back at Court as she tweeted “Margaret. Enough is enough,” with an image of the article attached.
Margaret. Enough is enough. pic.twitter.com/Cl1DtC4aSL— caseydellacqua (@caseydellacqua) May 25, 2017
In Margaret Court’s view, Dellacqua has it in for her because “Casey has never won a grand slam. I won 24.”
Martina Navratilova, on the other hand, has won 18 grand slam singles titles and even though she celebrated Court’s immense success as a sports star, she wrote in her letter that “It is now clear exactly who Court is: An amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe.”
“Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights (note to Court: we are human beings, too). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere.”
Navratilova said that children suffer the most when people bash the LGBTQI community and wanted to know “how much blood will be on Margaret’s hands because kids will continue to get beaten for being different?” According to Martina, “too many will die by suicide because of this kind of intolerance,” and added that it “is not OK.”
Mrs. Court, who is also a pastor, believes in “Bible marriage” that describes the union as between a man and a woman. This is not the first time Court has taken a public anti-LGBTQI stance. Recently she called for a boycott of Qantas, Australia’s national carrier, after the airline’s openly gay CEO, Alan Joyce, publicly supported gay marriage.
Court said she would not fly Qantas anymore, “where possible,” adding that during her years “of never losing a tennis match while playing for my country” she always had proudly promoted Qantas.
“I am disappointed that Qantas has become an active promoter for same-sex marriage. I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible. Your statement leaves me no option but to use other airlines where possible for my extensive travelling.”
Melbourne and Olympic Parks used the Margaret Cour Twitter account to denounce Court’s statements publicly.
Meanwhile, Tennis Australia has also issued a statement distancing itself from Margaret’s comments.
“As a legend of the sport, we respect Margaret Court’s achievements in tennis and her unmatched playing record. Her personal views are her own, and do not align with Tennis Australia’s values of equality, inclusion and diversity”
Australians have been engaged in heated debates over whether to legalize same-sex marriages over the last few years. At the moment the polls are showing that 65 percent of Australians are in support of gay marriage. In response to the news, Court said, “We know the statistics are very, very wrong. They’re after our young ones, that’s what they’re after.”
In the closing of her letter to the Margaret Court Arena, Martina Navratilova wrote that while “we celebrate free speech,” it doesn’t mean “it is free of consequences – not punishment, but consequences.”
[Featured Image by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images]