Martina Navratilova took the umpire’s chair and had hardly spoken for a few seconds when the broadcast stopped. She was speaking for the renaming of the Margaret Court Arena in honour of former Australian World No. 1 Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
“I’ve been speaking out about an issue for a while now and John McEnroe is here to join me and push the conversation forward…” Navratilova had said when the broadcast stopped abruptly.
Margaret Court, after whom the arena is named, had many times openly criticised same-sex marriages. There have been occasions where the 24-time singles Grand Slam winner openly made statements against such relationships.
Navratilova, along with John McEnroe, had reportedly made strong comments against Court, who was later honoured to mark the 50th anniversary of her calendar Grand Slam year. The duo also held a banner reading: “Evonne Goolagong Arena”.
Tennis Australia released a statement, saying the pair had breached protocols.
“We embrace diversity, inclusion and the right for people to have a view, as well as their right to voice that view,” the statement read.
“But the Australian Open has regulations and protocols with respect to how any fan, player or guest can use our facility, the event and the global stage it provides. This is to ensure the integrity of our event.
“Two high-profile guests have breached these protocols and we are working through this with them.”
Later, in an interview with BBC Sport, Martina Navratilova talked about why she felt the association should rename the arena.
“You don’t want to diminish in any way Margaret Court’s achievements,” Navratilova said.
“She was celebrated yesterday for winning the Grand Slam 50 years ago – absolutely. But when buildings are named after you, or airports, or streets, it’s the body of work, it’s not just one part of your life and then ignore the rest.
“I did not watch it, I did not partake. I did not go. I’m protesting by absence. But the correct thing to do, I think, is to honour her win.”