SYDNEY, Australia — Tennis great Margaret Court on Friday claimed a gay conspiracy from America was behind calls to strip her name from one of the Australian Open stadiums, after a furor over her views on homosexuality.
The Australian also hit back at America’s Martina Navratilova, who lashed out at the 74-year-old church pastor’s “sick and dangerous” comments on gays in tennis and transgender children.
Court’s statements have been widely criticised in the tennis world and prompted calls to rename Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena, or even boycott the venue at next year’s open Grand Slam.
Court initially drew fire for saying she will avoid Australian airline Qantas for its support of same-sex marriage. She later claimed tennis was “full of lesbians.”
But she remained defiant on Friday, saying renaming the stadium would be unfair and that she was being targeted by an American gay “lobby.”
“I think I’ve won more Grand Slams than any man or woman and if it is (renamed), I don’t believe I deserve it,” the 24-time Grand Slam singles champion told Melbourne’s 3AW radio.
“They could probably get 100,000 petitions in 24 hours because that’s how they work. There’s a lot of money behind it, and it’s coming from America.”
Asked if she thought a conspiracy was at work, Court replied: “Yes, I believe there is… I think the (gay) lobby, yeah. They are a minority in number but they do have a lot of money behind them.”
She said there was “a lot of bullying from the other way” and that she should have the right to express her views.
“My nephew, with the Margaret Court tennis academy in Albury, he’s had his computers just trashed,” added Court.
“I don’t want any more of it. Enough’s enough but they will keep doing it and it’s very militant and it’s sad to think that. But really, I have nothing against them.”
Navratilova slammed Court, who once voiced support for apartheid, as “racist and a homophobe” on Thursday after the Australian said tennis was “full of lesbians” and that transgender children were victims of a Nazi-style plot.
The Czech-American suggested renaming the stadium after Australia’s Evonne Goolagong Cawley. But Court said Navratilova, who is gay, “needs to sort out her own nation, not our nation.”
“A lot of nations have gone to gay marriage, and I think this nation I don’t believe needs to go that way. I think we need to stand our ground,” she said.
Tennis Australia and the operator of the Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne and Olympic Parks, have distanced themselves from Court’s views on gay marriage.
Goolagong Cawley, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, was the first Aborigine to represent her country in world tennis and was only the second mother to win Wimbledon, in 1980.