The campaign to fly rainbow flags at the Australian Open received a flood of support from some high-profile people this week.
Award-winning author of The Slap Christos Tsiolkas urged tennis-goers to show their support on the last weekend of the Grand Slam event, saying Australian tennis champion Margaret Court’s recent anti-gay comments were mean-spirited.
“Sport is such a big part of cultural life in Australia that having a sportsperson like Court mouth bigoted rubbish is cruel and damaging,” Tsiolkas said.
“Her comments would also be hurting and confusing many young people, especially sportspeople, who want to look up to her as a source of inspiration and pride.”
Neighbours star Sandy Winton and his wife Tess have also backed the campaign.
Politicians of all stripes have waded in. Albert Park Labor MP Martin Foley called on Tennis Australia to display rainbow colours over Margaret Court Arena and commit to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Fair Go, Sport! campaign which promotes LGBTI inclusion in sport.
“I call upon all those many tennis fans, Tennis Australia and the Australian Open to take a stand for diversity, tolerance and an inclusive sporting culture,” Foley said.
“We all need to counter discrimination and homophobia wherever it rears its head.”
Greens senators Richard Di Natale and Sarah Hanson-Young and federal Greens MP Adam Bandt echoed Foley’s calls.
“Margaret Court was a tennis champion who deserves the accolades she has received for her contribution to her sport, however, her suggestion that sexuality is something that can be ‘overcome’ is wrong and dangerous,” Hanson-Young said.
On the other side of the political divide, Prahran Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown said the LGBTI community had a right to non-disruptive protest.
“The suggestion people of non-heterosexual orientation can be reprogrammed by churches is a particularly abhorrent suggestion … which could influence the mental health of a broad cross-section of the community … particularly younger kids.”
Last week SBS newsreader Anton Enus lent his support to the campaign, and was photographed with a rainbow flag and umbrella.
“This is my community. When faced with narrow-mindedness, there’s a clear choice: fairness and dignity or bigotry,” Enus told the Star Observer.
Also joining the calls for a mass show of colour this weekend include City of Hobsons Bay Mayor Tony Briffa, former ex-gay pentecostal pastor Anthony Venn-Brown, marriage equality advocate Carl Katter, headspace CEO Chris Tanti and writer Kerry Greenwood.
Tennis Australia has released a statement saying it does not share Court’s views.
“We believe that everyone should be treated equally and fairly,” Tennis Australia said.
POLICE DISCRIMINATION CLAIM
Lesbian tennis fan Chrissy Adams alleges she was stopped by Victoria Police for carrying a rainbow flag on day five of the Australian Open and claims she felt “intimidated”.
Adams said she was warned by two officers if fellow spectators in the arena took offence she would be removed from the ground.
“I felt intimidated … at the thought of being ejected from Melbourne Park just because I had decided to fly my rainbow flag and be out and proud,” Adams said.
Campaign organisers of Rainbow Flags Over Margaret Court Arena say they have lodged a complaint with the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.