As the 2020 Australian Open gets underway, Tennis Australia has confirmed plans to recognise rather than celebrate the 50th anniversary of Margaret Court’s record making Grand Slam sweep.
In 1970, Court won all four major titles – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. The stunning achievement was just one highlight in a career that has defined Court as one of the greatest players of all time.
However, Court’s persistent slurs against the LGBTQI community have marred her reputation and drawn condemnation from Tennis Australia. In an open letter, they said Court’s comments “demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years.”
“They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.”
“Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.”
Until now, Tennis Australia had remained vague about how it would honour 77-year old Court, who will be attending the tournament for the first time since 2017.
However, as reported in The Australian, Tennis Australia chief, Craig Tiley confirmed last week that Court will not be presenting the Australian Open trophy to the women’s champion this year at Melbourne Park.
“We’ve said that we’re going to recognise Margaret … she’s one of the icons of sport in Australia and she’s going to be recognised as such,” Tiley said.
“Her outstanding playing career is her tennis legacy and clearly worthy of recognition. We will continue to communicate with Margaret, as we have for many years, regarding events, our recognition of her achievement, our sport and its culture.”
Tennis Australia has distanced itself from Court’s comments about the ‘problems’ of allowing transgender athletes in women’s sports, and the ‘trickle-down effect’ of lesbianism in Tennis.
Court, however, has opened herself up to new criticism. Many are decrying her religious hypocrisy in taking up the role of Honorary Consul of Burundi in Western Australia, along with her husband, Barry Court.
Burundi, a nation in East Africa was thrown into political and human rights turmoil in 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader during the 1993 Tutsi genocide, announced that he would run for a disputed third term. This decision broke the original constitution that declared that any President could only serve two terms.
Then in 2017, government forces targeted real and perceived opponents who protested this expansion of presidential power, and were responsible for numerous killings, disappearances, abductions, tortures, rapes, and wrongful arrests.
In July last year, Burundi’s First Lady, Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza, opened the African country’s first Australian consulate in the Victory Life Centre, the Church that Court runs as a Pentecostal Minister in Perth.
Court and her husband hosted the First Lady while President Nkurunziza chose to remain in Burundi, knowing that if he left he would be arrested and tried in the International Criminal Court.
Christian Nduwimana, a Burundian refugee in Australia whose father was murdered in 2017 by President Pierre’s forces, believes Court’s moral judgement is clouded.
“How can Margaret Court judge people for being Gay and loving each other, when she is the Consul of a regime that murders people?” he said.
“Which is the immoral act?….. why should people be discriminated against because of their features…whether they be Tutsi, Hutu, LGBTI, tall or long nose?”
His comment is not just rhetoric. Burundi is suspected of ethnic cleansing, identifying undesired races via physical features such as height and length of their nose.