Comedian shreds ‘abhorrent’ Aussie icon
Tennis icon Margaret Court has once again divided opinion after calling on Tennis Australia (TA) to show her the same respect as Rod Laver when celebrating the 50th anniversary of her Grand Slam next year.
Court won all four majors in 1970 and finished her career with 24 grand slam singles titles - the most in history - but has sparked controversy in recent years with her outspoken opposition to same-sex marriage.
Gay marriage in Australia was legalised after the plebiscite in 2017 but Court disagrees with it on religious grounds because the Bible says marriage should be between a man and a woman.
The 77-year-old has been hounded for her views with plenty demanding the court honouring her at Melbourne Park have its name changed.
This year Aussie legend Laver was celebrated at all the majors in recognition of him winning the Grand Slam in 1969, and Court is adamant she deserves the same treatment, especially in her home country.
"I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me," Court told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. "They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.
"They brought Rod in from America. If they think I'm just going to turn up, I don't think that is right. I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don't really want to come."
Court added her views on gay marriage shouldn't have anything to do with her tennis legacy and maintains she has nothing against homosexuals, but simply believes they should not be allowed to marry.
"I don't feel any of that should be brought into my tennis career," Court said. "It was a different phase of my life from where I am now and if we are not big enough as a nation and a game to face those challenges there is something wrong."
Court doubled down later today on Nine News. "I hope that they would do the right thing and that I am honoured. It was a part of my life that I loved an enjoyed," she said.
"They shouldn't bring all that (her anti-gay marriage comments) into my tennis."
'ABHORRENT': AUSTRALIA REACTS TO COURT CONTROVERSY
Court's call sparked plenty of debate in Australia.
Australian comedian and host of Triple M Sydney's breakfast program Lawrence Mooney said Court's attitude towards gay people has no place in society.
"You can't use 'her views are popular' and 'she has a right to use them' to be homophobic, you just can't be," Mooney told Channel 9's Today program.
"And if you're homophobic there's no space for you in public life.
"Discriminating about sexuality is a crime, so it is legislated against.
"Margaret Court's opinions on same sex marriage and sexuality are abhorrent and she should be hounded out of the sport until she falls into line.
"It's absolutely abhorrent.
"Margie, catch up to 2019.
"Margaret Court needs to stop discriminating against people."
“The truth is, Margaret Court’s views are not fashionable at the moment. I don’t agree with them but she’s not a criminal, she has every right to hold those views.” @AnnaCaldwell #9Today pic.twitter.com/UHzhEeJhDI— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) November 6, 2019
Today newsreader Tom Steinfort suggested TA might follow the lead of newly appointed head of the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) Peter V'landys, who said former Wallaby Israel Folau isn't welcome in the NRL because his now-famous anti-gay comments don't align with the code's values.
"If they (TA) want to lead here, no one has handled this issue better than Peter V'landys when he was asked about Israel Folau the other day," Steinfort said. "He said on that the game is inclusive, and Israel's comments aren't inclusive.
"If you don't want to be inclusive then you're not welcome.
"I just wonder if Tennis Australia might use that as their inspiration here."
Steinfort added: "We acknowledge her tennis record but we also acknowledge the abhorrent nature of a lot of things she's had to say over the years."
Today host Deborah Knight said it was a "really tricky" situation because of the dilemma involved in erasing Court's sporting achievements purely because of her personal views.
"You've got to tip your hat to the amazing achievements that she has reached in tennis. You can't ignore that," Knight said.
"Do we erase history because we don't agree with her? We can't do that, can we?
"You can't just not acknowledge what she has achieved in tennis."
State political editor for The Daily Telegraph Anna Caldwell also weighed in on Nine.
"Her polarising views on same sex marriage have nothing to do with what she achieved on the court," Caldwell said. "Tennis Australia is going to have to come up with a way to recognise that, in my view.
"I don't agree with them (Court's views) but she's not a criminal, she has every right to hold those views.
"She is one of our greatest sportspeople of all time and the idea that her personal views on same sex marriage creep in to how we treat our athletes is appalling and not where we want to be in a country."
Speaking on 5AA radio in Adelaide, former AFL star Stephen Rowe said: "Margaret hasn't returned to the Aussie Open since being chastised out of the game - and she was - for her Christian beliefs. (She) hasn't returned to her court since the same sex marriage debate. I reckon that's sad and wrong - there's got to be a solution somewhere for that to be celebrated.
"Margaret Court is a legend, the greatest ever male or female tennis player the world has ever seen - look at her record. She's a Christian and she's a reverend who quote verses from the bible. I'm not defending what she's done publicly but we are in a world of hurt as a nation if political correctness trumps that."
ABC Breakfast co-host Michael Rowland said Tennis Australia was obligated to recognise Court's achievements. "On a purely tennis front they really have to and she's got a point," Rowland said.
SOCIAL MEDIA REACTS
Unsurprisingly Court sparked plenty of debate on social media.
Channel 7 reporter Nick McCallum tweeted: "Margaret Court is right. She should be feted as a tennis legend. Of course, she can be criticised for her statements off court, but her achievements on court are unparalleled and should be celebrated. She deserves the honour of an Arena bearing her name."
In reference to her threat not to attend the Australian Open if she doesn't receive the same treatment as Laver, Fox Sports journalist Mark Gottlieb wrote on Twitter: "Margaret Court cancel culture-ing herself is a very good outcome here."
Well-known Australian entertainment reporter Peter Ford tweeted: "Disturbing start to the day when I wake up agreeing with Margaret Court."
A question for Margaret Court and all Christians: do you want to embrace the overarching theme of love, compassion and tolerance, or do you want to cherry-pick passages of the loose collection of books called the Bible that suit your own prejudices and foster hate and division? https://t.co/o7N5K9R8x9— Brett Debritz (@debritz) November 6, 2019