Billie Jean changes tune on Court furore

American tennis star Billie Jean King has been a leading critic of Margaret Court’s comments on the LGBT community, but has promised to dial down her condemnation of the Australian.

King called for Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena to be renamed after the 24-time Grand Slam singles champion said tennis was “full of lesbians” in 2017.

Court, who is currently a Pentecostal pastor in Perth, also called young transgender Australians “so wrong” during a sermon in December 2019.

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It has long sparked a furore that saw Court, who still holds the record for the most Grand Slam titles, awkwardly recognised at the 2020 Australian Open, which was meant to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of her 1970 Grand Slam.

Tennis Australia made it clear before the ceremony that Court’s achievements were to be celebrated during a brief ceremony at the Australian Open — but the tennis icon’s controversial views on the LGBTI community were not welcome.

King has long been a vocal critic.

“I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community; I’m a gay woman,” King said in January 2018.

“I personally don’t think she should have her name anymore,” she said.

“If you were talking about Indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can’t imagine the public would want to have her name on something.

“Maybe because it’s the LGBTI community people might feel differently, but we’re all God’s children, so I probably don’t think it’s appropriate to have her name.”

Margaret Court and Billie-Jean King in 1967Source:Herald Sun

King is not the only former player to decry Court’s views.

Legendary tennis player John McEnroe released a short video in January via Eurosport UK, condemning Court for her “offensive” beliefs.

“There’s only one thing longer than a list of Margaret Court’s tennis achievements — it’s her list of offensive and homophobic statements,” McEnroe said.

“Margaret Court is actually a ventriloquist, using the bible of the dummy to say whatever she wants.

“Tennis Australia is facing a dilemma — what do they do with their crazy aunt?”

McEnroe and Martina Navratilova delivered a stunning on-court protest against Margaret Court during the Australian Open in January, holding a sign which read “Evonne Goolagong Arena”.

Court labelled their actions “very, very wrong”, suggesting the duo were in no position to protest on Australian soil.


Two years on from her comments, King conceded her words had upset Court, deciding to stop criticising the former World No. 1’s controversial views.

“She’s mad at me because she doesn’t want me to say her name should be removed,” King told the New York Daily News.

“I appreciate that — I’m going to stop, probably.”

Billie Jean King speaking onstage during the Women Changing The Conversation panel on SaturdaySource:Getty Images

However, 76-year-old King wants Court to be “more loving”, suggesting the Australian is leaving behind a tainted legacy.

“When someone has their name on something, you’ve got to be really hospitable, and I feel that Margaret’s not doing that,” King said.

The United States Tennis Association named its National Tennis Centre facility after King, who won 12 Grand Slam tournaments during a stellar career. She won 129 career titles and achieved World No. 1 status in 1966.

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