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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, January 13, 2018 1:00 am

King wants Court's name off arena

JOHN PYE | Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia – Billie Jean King thinks one of the main venues at the Australian Open should be renamed because of Margaret Court's comments about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

King, a trailblazer for equality and diversity in tennis, said she had initially been a proponent of having Margaret Court Arena named in 2003 in recognition of the 24-time Grand Slam singles winner's contribution to the sport.

“I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community – I'm a gay woman – about the LBGTIQ community,” King said at news conference Friday. “That really went deep in my heart and soul.

“I personally don't think she should have (her name on the stadium) anymore.”

King is attending the Australian Open for the first time in eight years, marking the 50th anniversary of her win over Court for the Australian title.

King said if she was still competing, she wouldn't play on Margaret Court Arena. King said she wouldn't promote a boycott of the stadium but encouraged players to “seek their own heart and mind” before making a decision.

Organizers have recognized the American tennis great as the Australian Open Woman of the Year and launched its “Open4All” initiative to promote equality, diversity and inclusion to coincide with King's visit.

King, one of the original professionals in women's tennis and winner of 12 major singles titles in the Open era, said she had regularly met with Court at tournaments in the years since they retired after “we grew up together playing each other.”

Court, 75, who holds the record for most Grand Slam singles titles across the amateur and Open eras, is a Christian pastor who lives in Perth, Western Australia.

Court's negative comments about gay people before Australia voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage were heavily criticized last year. Court also has called transgender children the work of “the devil.”