Billie Jean King Wants Aussie Tennis Arena Renamed over Lesbian Comments

Billie Jean King calls for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed after homophobic comments

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Fifteen years agon when an arena at Australia's Melbourne Park was named for the country's 24-time Grand Slam victor Margaret Court, tennis legend and activist Billie Jean King spoke on behalf of honoring the former athlete turned Pentecostal minister for her towering achievements in the sport.

'She won 64 grand slams ... more than everybody else.

With a nod to tennis' status as one of the most progressive in sport, Billie Jean King will be honoured at this year's Australian Open - as Margaret Court stays away.

The rebranding of a show court as "Margaret Court Arena" has brought to attention the West Australian fundamentalist's Christian views on same-sex parenting, and LGBTI rights.

King says she lobbied on behalf of Court to be recognized after the main tennis stadium in Melbourne was named after Rod Laver, however the American - a lesbian and civil-rights campaigner - says she would now refuse to play on the showcourt named after her former rival. "It's a public facility".

"I wish Margaret was here this year", she said.

'Maybe it's our community, the LGBTIQ community (why) people might feel differently.

King cited a radio interview Court, 75, gave last May, in which she said it was satanic when children questioned their gender identity.

"When she talked about children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge, I must say", she said.

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"I'll play on whatever court I'm scheduled on", she said.

"I don't think it's appropriate. she's gotten derogatory", King said, adding that she would not play on the court if she was still in action. In light of her former opponent's fervently homophobic stance, however, King said of the Margaret Court Arena: "If I were playing today, I would not play on it".

"I know it's not as easy as people think, but I personally don't think she should have her name anymore".

The former 64-time major victor, who is now a pastor at Victory Life Church in Perth, also once wrote a letter to the West Australian to express sadness that Casey Dellacqua's newborn child would be "deprived of his father".

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said Tennis Australia didn't have a view on the renaming of the arena. Court also has called transgender children the work of "the devil".

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

Tiley said: "Our position has been pretty straightforward".

"Margaret's views are her views". They are not the views of our organisation and not the views of our sport. We're inclusive, diverse, equal, and all the things Billie Jean said.

Konta goes into the Australian Open as the ninth seed and reported a clean bill of health after the hip injury that forced her to retire in Brisbane last week. "As far as the name of the arena, that's up to a broader group of people than just one person or one organization".

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