(CNN)Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe have apologized for breaking Australian Open protocol over a protest to change the name of the Margaret Court Arena.
The legendary tennis stars oppose 24-time grand slam winner Court’s views on homosexuality and want the Melbourne Park court renamed.
Navratilova, 63, climbed into the umpire’s chair to address the crowd at the end of her “Legends” doubles match Tuesday, however the television feed was cut off as she was speaking.She then unfurled a banner reading “Evonne Goolagong Arena” in reference to Australia’s seven-time grand slam champion and paraded it around the court with McEnroe.
Martina #Navratilova makes a statement about changing the name of #MargaretCourt Arena after her legends doubles match on that court. Tennis Australia cuts off the feed to @Eurosport. Let's share her message here.#AusOpen #AusOpen2020 #LGBT pic.twitter.com/ZdI92ZS6Za
— Kevin Chang 🌏⚖️ (@KevinCChang) January 28, 2020 Read MoreAustralian Open organizers were quick to admonish the “two high-profile guests” for breaking tournament regulations.”I got in trouble,” Navratilova told Tennis Channel.”I am sorry I broke protocol, I had no idea there was this kind of protocol. Had I known I would have done it differently.”But I would still have tried and made my statement, which is basically you name buildings after not what people just did on the court but also off the court, the whole body of work.”I said my piece. You can read my whole statement, I stand by that, but I do apologise for breaking protocol. I did not mean to do that.”McEnroe issued an apology read out by his employer ESPN, saying: “Admittedly I was never one to study the rule book carefully or, for that matter, even at times abide by the rules.
"Please win two more Grand Slams so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past where she belongs"
John McEnroe aka the Comissioner of Tennis is back and he's got a request for @SerenaWilliams 🙏 pic.twitter.com/3TeKa8JS2B
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) January 26, 2020 “In this case, I was not aware of the Tennis Australia rules and protocol for issuing credentials. For that, I apologize to Tennis Australia and recognize and appreciate the great job they have done to make the Australian Open a great event for the fans, players and myself.”Court, now a Pentecostal pastor in Western Australia, has likened LGBTQ teaching in schools to the work of “the devil” and previously said tennis is “full of lesbians”.The 77-year-old, the most successful player of all time, won all four grand slams in 1970.She was invited to this year’s tournament to honor the 50th anniversary of the achievement, but Tennis Australia said it did not agree with her “demeaning” personal views.
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‘Embodiment of a role model’
Following her on-court protest Tuesday, Navratilova published a letter on tennis.com explaining why she thinks the arena should be named after Goolagong, describing the former world No.1 as the “embodiment of what a role model or hero truly is”.Navratilova wrote: “When airports, buildings, streets or stadiums are named after particular people, it is done, or at least should be done, to honor exceptional human beings — our heroes.”Think Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Billie Jean King, Rod Laver, Rosa Parks. Would it not be appropriate if the Staples Center were renamed as a tribute to Kobe Bryant?”Such luminaries excelled in their fields and transcended them; they made a positive contribution to mankind; they led by example. And, perhaps most of all, they were on the right side of history.”But Margaret Court does not belong in that company or category. Nobody disputes her achievements on the tennis court, and her place in the sport’s history remains as distinguished as it gets. Nobody wants to take away or diminish her career, least of all me. Margaret, Billie Jean and Rod were my childhood heroes. I wanted to be like them.”So, it pains me to say this, but Margaret Court Arena must be renamed.”As a worthy replacement, my vote goes to Evonne Goolagong. Evonne is the embodiment of what a role model or hero truly is. Her heritage, her success against the odds, her Hall of Fame career and her exemplary life off court, in which she has given so much of herself to so many causes, are all attributes we can celebrate wholeheartedly.”
On Sunday, McEnroe had mocked “crazy aunt” Court in a Eurosport segment entitled the “Commissioner of Tennis.” In the video, the seven-time grand slam champion called on Serena Williams, who was knocked out in the third round of the Australian Open, to better Court’s number of major titles.”Serena, do me a favor. Get two more grand slams this year and get to 25 so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past where they both belong,” said McEnroe.