It’s been a rocky year for Margaret Court and her religious beliefs. The question for 2018 is whether this year will be particularly bad for her legacy.
The former tennis champion, who has more Grand Slam titles than any other athlete, has taken aim for years at same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general.
Last year she saw her own country embrace the idea of two men marrying one another. Even though she overwhelmingly lost the vote in Australia — 62% to 38% — according to legendary tennis commentator Mary Carrillo, Court still thinks she’s in the majority.
“She fears for what she calls a genderless society,” Carrillo told Outsports via phone. Carrillo recently spent some time in Perth with Court and was with her the day the vote totals were announced. “She fears for fatherless generations. And she said she still considers she is the silent majority.”
Last week Court said publicly that she would not be attending the Australian Open, where she won the ladies singles title 11 times, more than any other player. (Incidentally she lost only one final ever, to Billie Jean King in 1968.)
Over the last year, as Court’s anti-gay rhetoric has escalated, some have called for athletes to boycott Margaret Court Arena, which houses the showcase court of the Australian Open.
Yet to date, no player has made any indication of boycotting anything.
“I speak to the players every day but there have been no requests,” said tournament director Craig Tiley.
Court had some choice words about the idea of players boycotting her arena.
“I think that is petty if they do that and it says what’s in their heart,” she said. “I think that’s very childish, but that’s not up to me and it doesn’t affect me.”
It’s hard to believe an athlete would actually refuse to play a match assigned to Margaret Court Arena. It would be a bold move, but the biggest loser in the ordeal might be the athlete, not Court herself.
The better question is what kind of boycott fans could mount. Will enough fans avoid the arena to have any kind of impact? Will there be major protests outside the arena?
My guess is if the country had voted to oppose same-sex marriage, there would be hell to pay and Court would pay dearly. Yet because Australian voters so overwhelmingly rejected Court’s bigotry, it’s a lot easier to dismiss her as a grumpy old gramma.
But the Australian Open has just begun, so time will tell.