Expected Australia Day 2021 honour for Margaret Court stirs controversy

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Jan 22, 2021, 08.29 PM(IST)

Tennis great Court vows to keep Aussie award despite backlash Photograph:( AFP )

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Controversy has erupted after it was reported that tennis great Margaret Court is set to be awarded Australia's highest honour next week. Fans criticised the move because of Court's history of anti-gay views. 

Controversy has erupted after it was reported that tennis great Margaret Court is set to be awarded Australia's highest honour next week. Fans criticised the move because of Court's history of anti-gay views. 

Court, who won 24 singles Grand Slam titles in her career and 40 doubles Grand Slams, is to be awarded a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AC) - the highest category of honour – after previously receiving the laurel in 2007, the media reported.  The tennis great ultimately retrained as a Pentecostal pastor. 

While Court's award has not been officially confirmed, Victoria state leader Daniel Andrews hinted about it on social media, without naming her as he said he didn't “want to give this person’s disgraceful, bigoted views any oxygen”. 

“But when others insist on rewarding them with this country’s highest honor – I think it’s worth saying again: Grand Slam wins don’t give you some right to spew hatred and create division,” Andrews said. 

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However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had no “official knowledge” of Court’s award. 

“It is a system that recognises the full spectrum of individuals across this country,” Morrison said of the awards. 

Court, in 2019, had criticised transgender athletes and called the teaching of LGBT material in schools the work of devil. The tennis great made the comments at the Perth church which she set up decades back and where she is a pastor now. 

The 78-year-old was slammed by other tennis greats such as Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe as they said Court's name should be removed from the Melbourne Park showcourt and replaced with that of former world number one, Evonne Goolagong. 

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“You name buildings after not what people just did on the court, but also off the court, the whole body of work,” Navratilova, an 18-times Grand Slam champion who is openly gay, said on the Tennis Channel at the time. 

However, the duo had to apologise for a breach of “protocol” at the Australian Open after being taken to task by tournament organizers for an on-court protest against Court.

Court has maintained that she had been treated unfairly due to her views on “gay marriage and all of those areas” while emphasising that people should focus on her on-court achievements. 

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