Tennis great Martina Navratilova climbed up the umpire’s chair and started to address the crowd at Margaret Court Arena, one of the main show courts at the Australian Open, demanding the venue’s name be changed due to Court’s comments about gay people.
Navratilova tried to use the court microphone, but the live feed was soon cut off, according to the Associated Press. Navratilova and John McEnroe then unfurled a banner reading “Evonne Goolagong Arena,” proposing a name change to honor an Australian seven-time Grand Slam champion from the 1970s.
“I’ve been speaking out about an issue for a while now and John McEnroe is here to join me and push the conversation forward,” Navratilova said, according to reports.
Navratilova, who is gay, and McEnroe may face punishment for their protest, as Tennis Australia said the protest breached its tournament protocols.
“We embrace diversity, inclusion and the right for people to have a view, as well as their right to voice that view,”’ Tennis Australia said in a statement. “But the Australian Open has regulations and protocols with respect to how any fan, player or guest can use our facility, the event and the global stage it provides. This is to ensure the integrity of our event.
“Two high-profile guests have breached these protocols and we are working through this with them.”
Court, 77, opposed same-sex marriage and has made disparaging remarks about gay and transgender people, including implying that such people are controlled by the devil and likening gay people to Adolf Hitler.
Court won an all-time record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, including 13 before the Open era. Her record might be broken if Serena Williams can win two more Grand Slams in her career.
McEnroe, a tennis commentator for ESPN, described Court as tennis’s “crazy aunt” this week on European television.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.
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