Kicking off the Australian Open in Melbourne last week, tennis legend Billie Jean King advocated changing the name of one of the tournament’s key venues, Margaret Court Arena, since its namesake has consistently made hateful anti-LGBT statements. King once argued in favor of naming a venue for 24-time Grand Slam winner Court, but said Friday that comments her formal rival allegedly made about transgender children “being from the devil” pushed her toward calling for a name change.
“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 added. “That really went deep in my heart and soul.”
Margaret Court’s husband, Barry Court, argued against a name change for the arena and called out King for repeating the comments about transgender people, which he said weren’t true.
"I suggest Billie Jean first check her facts before making allegations against my wife," Barry Court wrote in a statement, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. "We have reputable sources review all her press releases and interviews and cannot trace these remarks back to Margaret."
King, who was named the Australian Open’s Woman of the Year, was referring to comments Court supposedly said on Vision Christian Radio.
"If you feel like being a girl, you can dress like a girl," Court is credited with saying, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. "What confusion to a child. I get confused talking about it. You can think, 'I'm a boy,' and it affects your emotions and feelings and everything else. That's all the devil."
While Barry Court disputed the existence of his wife’s comments about transgender people, there is no denying that other anti-LGBT statements she made.
“It's really important if you're going to have your name on anything that you're hospitable, you're inclusive, you open your arms to everyone that comes,” King said. “It's a public facility.”
But Court is not welcoming to all. During the lead-up to a non-binding mail-in vote in which Australians overwhelmingly called for marriage equality last year, Court threatened to boycott Qantas airlines for its support of equality and later said that LGBT people, “Want marriage because they want to destroy it. There will be no Mother’s Day, there will be no Father’s Day, there will be no Easter, there will be no Christmas.”
Following the vote in favor of marriage, Court chastised the Australian people saying, “I think there will be a price to pay for it in the future in the nation and people will see it’s not about marriage,” Court said after the vote. “There will be a genderless generation.”
For her part, King said she was open to engaging in a conversation with Court if she were at the Open, but the now-Pentecostal minister opted to avoid the event this year and take a crabbing trip.