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By Tennis Now | Monday, December 30, 2019

Margaret Court

Margaret Court condemned transgender athletes and claimed the devil has infiltrated the media in a controversial sermon she delivered in Perth.

Margaret Court continues to take shots from the pulpit setting the stage for a historic—and potentially contentious—Australian Open return.

The Australian Open will recognize the 50th anniversary of Court’s Grand Slam season next month.

More: Nishikori, Murray Out of Australian Open

Will Court's return to Melbourne turn Happy Slam to hate-fest?

The Hall of Famer has generated international headlines following her controversial sermon at her Perth church Sunday. Court condemned transgender athletes, reiterated her belief homosexuality is “a choice” and claimed the devil has infiltrated media, educational and political institutions.

“And you know with that LGBT, they'll wish they never put the T on the end of it because, particularly in women's sports, they're going to have so many problems,” Court said in her sermon published by Sydney Morning Herald. “And you have got young people taking hormones and having changes, by the time they are 17 they are thinking, 'Now I'm a boy and really I was a girl.'

"Because, you know what, God's made us that way.”

The 77-year-old Court, a devout Christian Pentecostal minister in Perth, Australia, has claimed pro tennis is "full of lesbians", alleged older lesbians have preyed upon younger players and has been a vocal critic of same-sex marriage.

Court’s controversial views have prompted some of her fellow Hall of Famers—including Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova—to urge Tennis Australia to rename of Margaret Court Arena in honor of another legendary Aussie champion, Evonne Goolagong.

In an Open Letter announcing the recognition of Court’s 1970 Grand Slam season, the TA condemned Court’s claims that homosexuality is a choice and gays are sinners.

"As we have often communicated to Margaret, we respect that everyone has a right to an opinion—and a right to express it," the TA wrote in its Open Letter. "Equally, we all share an obligation that while living our lives freely, we do not harm others, and we understand that there are consequences to our words.

"Publicly stated views of intolerance and demeaning language about others can have enormous impact and are particularly hurtful and harmful to those who believe they are targeted."

Court rejected charges her preaching is hateful and hurtful saying she doesn’t hate anyone and claiming the devil uses media, politicians and education to manipulate the minds of the masses.

"The devil gets in and the media and the political, the education, TV, he wants to control a nation so he can affect people's minds and mouths,” Court said. "I can go on television and if I say, 'well, this is what the Bible says', well, it's like opening a can of worms.”

In 1970 Court made history as the second woman—after Maureen Connolly in 1953—to complete the calendar-year Grand Slam. Connolly, Court and Steffi Graf remain the only three women in history to complete a calendar Grand Slam.

Serena Williams is aiming to match Court’s all-time record by winning her 24th Grand Slam at the 2020 Australian Open.

Court’s return to the tournament she dominated sets the stage for a possible public clash between Court and her critics, who charge her with hate speech.

King, Navratilova and John McEnroe are among the Hall of Famers who have publicly criticized Court. The International Tennis Hall of Fame will announce the inductees for the class of 2020 during the Melbourne major setting the stage for fellow champions to voice their views on the controversy.

"I was fine until Margaret said lately so many derogatory things about my community. I'm a gay woman ... that really went deep in my heart and soul," King said in an interview earlier this year.

"If you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want somebody (with those views) to have their name on something."

Navratilova slammed Court as "a racist homophobe" and called Court's comments on homosexuality "sick and dangerous" in a stinging rebuke to the 24-time Grand Slam champion a couple of years ago.

In An Open Letter to Margaret Court Arena published by the Sydney Morning Herald, Navratilova called Court out for her claim that top lesbian players lured younger players during her days on the pro circuit and branded her a racist.

"I had long ago forgiven Court for her headline-grabbing comments in 1990 when she said I was a bad role model because I was a lesbian," Navratilova wrote. "What I did not know about until now were the unabashed racist statements she made in the '70s about apartheid in South Africa. Saying that South Africa dealt with the "situation" (meaning people of color) much better than anywhere else in the world, particularly the US: what exactly did she mean by that?"

Navratilova's opinion piece came in response to Court telling Vision Christian Radio Station "tennis is full of lesbians."

"We're not against the (gay) people," Court 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."


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