Australian tennis great Margaret Court says she feels bullied by a fierce backlash over her views on gay marriage, but has vowed not to be “intimidated”.
The 24-time Grand Slam champion, now a Christian pastor, caused controversy by announcing last week she would stop flying Qantas “where possible” in protest at the airline’s support of same-sex marriage.
It sparked calls, led by Martina Navratilova and supported by Richel Hogenkamp, one of the few openly gay players in tennis, for the Australian Open to take her name off one of its flagship stadiums.
Court, 74, said she had the right to air her views.
“I think it’s bullying. I think they always said that we were bullying them but I think there’s a lot of bullying gone on, intimidation,” she told Sky News late last night.
“I think everybody has their views. I have nothing against gay people and you know we have them in our church and I help them.
“(But) this is a Judeo-Christian nation and I believe we should protect marriage.”
Court has long held strong views about homosexuality, which have previously been slammed by Navratilova and fellow great Billie Jean King, who are both gay.
“I’m not intimidated because I know who I am, I love family and I just stand up for righteousness and truth,” Court said.
On Monday, Hogenkamp joined calls for her name to be stripped from the arena at Melbourne Park, where the first Grand Slam event of the season takes place in January.
“I see that many players comment against her. So, if many players stand behind it, I think maybe something can change,” she said at the French Open.
Tennis Australia and the operator of the Margaret Court Arena — Melbourne and Olympic Parks — have distanced themselves from Court’s same-sex marriage stance, but not commented further.
Court said she had earned the right to have a stadium named after her.
“They try to bring my past into it, I think it is very sad,” she said.
“I think it’s something I deserved. I loved representing my nation, playing for my nation … I’ve earned those honours and accolades and awards.”