The controversial views of former Australian tennis star Margaret Court are once again at the forefront due to the decision to award her with the country’s highest honor.
Court, who is currently an Officer in the AO, will be elevated to the rank of Companion in the AO’s highest award category, the General Division.
The announcement of her nomination to honor her “eminent service to tennis” was supposed to come out on Monday, but news of it spread on social media on Friday. Her controversial views on homosexuality, gay marriage, and transgender individuals have drawn early criticism.
Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, sharply criticized the decision, arguing that her “disgraceful and hateful” beliefs should not be respected.
A Tennis Great
Court has won a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, one more than Serena Williams. This makes her one of the best tennis players of all time.
She has won 64 major titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles competitions.
In 2003, Melbourne Park Stadium at the site of the Australian Open has renamed Margaret Court Arena in her honor. Players like Martina Navratilova, winner of 18 major titles, have since called for the venue to be renamed, but this has not happened.
In the 2007 Australia Day Honours List, Court was awarded the rank of Officer of the Order of Australia. For her contributions to sports and international relations, she has been an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) since 1967.
She fought successfully for Tennis Australia to recognize the 50th anniversary of her 1970 season Grand Slam at the Australian Open last year, an event that was mired in controversy due to the nature of the celebration itself.
Why Is She Controversial?
Court, now 78 years old, is a Pentecostal preacher at a church in Perth and has been the target of much criticism in recent years for her views on the LGBTIQ+ community.
Court has been criticized for his discriminatory statements against same-sex marriage, transgender athletes, and LGBTIQ+ education.
She publicly criticized same-sex parenthood in a letter to the editor in 2013. Australian tennis player Casey Dellacqua gave birth to a child in 2013.
“Personally, I have nothing against Casey Dellacqua or her “partner,” she wrote.
“It breaks my heart to realize that this infant appears to have been abandoned by his father.”
Several years later, Court caused another media frenzy when she wrote to her local paper to announce that she would no longer fly with Qantas because of the company’s stance on homosexual marriage. At the time, Australia was yet to legalize gay marriage, despite opinion polls that have shown the majority of Australians supported it.
“I am dismayed that Qantas has become an active proponent for same-sex marriage,” Court said in the letter published in The West Australian newspaper.
According to what the Bible says, marriage should be between a man and a woman.
In light of your comments, I will have to look into alternative airlines for my frequent travel.
In her 2019 speech at her Pentecostal church, Court attacked transgender athletes and transgender youngsters.
“Because we are living in a season… even the LGBT and the schools – it’s of the devil, it’s not of God,” Court reportedly said to her congregation at the time.
“And when youngsters are making the decision at seven or eight years of age to alter their sex … no, just read the first two chapters of Genesis, that’s all I say. Male and female.
“It’s really incorrect at that age because a lot of things get planted in this mind sphere at that age. And they start to ponder ‘What am I?’ and if you are a Christian… you believe the word of God, this is our TV guide to life…
And you know that LGBT, they’re going to have so many problems, especially in women’s sports, that they’ll wish they never put the T on the end of it.
A month before Tennis Australia was set to recognize Court for her Grand Slam, she delivered her sermon.
The governing body struggled with how to honor its greatest female player but ultimately decided to “recognize but not celebrate” Court’s achievement while maintaining a critical distance from her political beliefs.
Tennis Australia issued a statement at the time reading, “As often mentioned, Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret’s personal views, which have demeaned and damaged many in our community over a number of years.”
They don’t share our commitment to diversity, tolerance, and fair treatment.
“Our sport accepts everyone, no matter what gender, ability, ethnicity, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion efforts broadly at all levels of the sport.”
What Has Been the Reaction This Time?
Despite numerous Labor Party leaders criticizing her award, Court claimed she feels “fortunate” to receive a second Australia Day honor.
“I wasn’t really looking to it, so I’m blessed,” she told reporters on Friday.
To paraphrase her acceptance speech, she said, “I haven’t seen any (backlash), and I’ll just keep around the tennis side this time and that’s what I’m receiving it for and that’s what I’m receiving it for and that’s a fantastic honor and I appreciate it.
The premiers of both Victoria and Western Australia have expressed their disagreement with the idea that she should be honored.
“I have nothing to do with the distribution of those gongs. Mr. Andrews told reporters on Friday, “You might want to speak to them about why they think such opinions which are terrible, nasty, and cost lives should be honored.”
“I’m not going to sit here for the sake of politeness and not live my beliefs,” she said, “and my values say those attitudes, and the position of my government and I think the vast majority of Victorians – they do not embrace that type of terrible approach.”
Mark McGowan, the premier of Western Australia, has stated that he disagrees with Court’s beliefs, “, particularly regarding gay and lesbian persons.”
There are many deserving “unsung heroes” in Australia, he said, so more medals for the Order of Australia should be distributed.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese was likewise dismissive, adding that Court “has already been honored for her tennis prowess.”
Making her a Companion of the Order of Australia “has nothing to do with tennis,” he added, and I think everyone would agree with him.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed he has no official knowledge of the situation.
“I can’t comment on an award that is done through an independent procedure that hasn’t been disclosed or I have no formal knowledge of those things,” he said.
One can say, “This is a whole separate procedure.”
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