Australian great Margaret Court Wednesday claimed “tennis is full of lesbians” and transgender children were the work of “the devil”, adding fuel to a simmering row over her views on homosexuality. The 24-time Grand Slam champion, now a Christian pastor, has been the brunt of a fierce backlash after 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, has vowed to keep airing her views and didn’t hold back on Vision Christian Radio station.
“I mean, tennis is full of lesbians, because even when I was playing there was only a couple there, but those couple that led took young ones into parties and things,” she said. “And you know, what you get at the top is often what you’ll get right through that sport.”
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. She insisted she was not against gay people, but wanted to help them.
“We’re there to help them overcome. We’re not against the people,” she said.
“They’re human beings and 92 percent, they say in America, have either been abused in some form sexually or emotionally at an early age for them to even be this way.” Asked about transgender children, she claimed their minds had been corrupted.
“That’s all the devil… but that’s what Hitler did and that’s what communism did — got the mind of the children. And there’s a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.”
Navratilova and others have called 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. There have also been rumblings about players boycotting the court.
World number one Andy Murray said at the French Open on Tuesday he hoped the issue could be resolved long before next year’s Australian Open.
“For players to be in a position where you’re in a slam and kind of boycotting playing on the court, I think would potentially cause a lot of issues,” he was cited as saying by Australian media.
“So I think if something was going to be happening and the players come to an agreement, if they think the name should be changed or whatever, that should be decided before the event — before the event starts.”
Tennis Australia and the operator of the Margaret Court Arena — Melbourne and Olympic Parks — have distanced themselves from Court’s same-sex marriage stance.