Margaret Court Arena should be renamed, says Billie Jean King

The former rivals in 2016. Pic Getty

Twelve-times grand slam champion Billie Jean King said on Friday that Margaret Court's name should be stripped from the Australian Open showcourt due to her divisive views on sexuality.

"If I were playing today I would not play there", King said at an Australian Open press conference after being named Women of the Year in association with the tournament's new equality initiative, Open4All.

"What happened in Brisbane, that actually got better quite quickly, a lot quicker than I thought", said the Briton, who will play American Madison Brengle in her opening match in Melbourne on Tuesday.

King said she would refuse to play on the arena if she was appearing at next week's tournament, but she wouldn't counsel others to do so.

But when King was asked about Court's name on the arena, she said: "I know it's not as easy as people think, but I personally don't think she should have her name anymore".

King, who is also gay, said she originally lobbied for Court to be honoured by tournament organisers when they rename the stadium in 2003.

King cited a radio interview Court, 75, gave last May, in which she said it was satanic when children questioned their gender identity.

"I think if you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want someone to have their name on something. I would welcome Margaret, I would welcome Pentecostal, I would welcome whatever, whether I agreed with them or not, is not important".

"Our position hasn't changed", he told reporters.

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Martina Navratilova wrote an open letter earlier in the year criticizing Court and recommended that tennis officials rename the arena that bears the Australian's name at Melbourne Park.

British No. 1 Johanna Konta will compete at the Margaret Court Arena despite disagreeing with Court's controversial statements on LGBT issues and same-sex marriage.

"I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community - I'm a gay woman - about the LBGTIQ community", King added.

"That really went deep in my heart and soul. However, she's entitled to her opinion", said Konta.

Court, now a Christian pastor, has been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage.

Court also criticised Australian player Casey Dellacqua for having two children with her female partner, and her comments led to a threat of a boycott at the third show court in Melbourne that was named after the 24-grand slam victor in 2003.

"We're an organisation that celebrates diversity and inclusivity and equality. As far as the name of the arena, that's up to a broader group of people than just one person or one organization". "But if I would be scheduled on Margaret Court, I will play on Margaret Court".

Court is not attending this year's Australian Open, which starts Monday, but has been a regular guest in the past.

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