Margaret Court AHRC

She’s the most successful tennis player in history, and this year’s Australian Open marks the 50th anniversary of her victory in four grand slam titles in a single year — an achievement she wants celebrated. But Tennis Australia (sitting well and truly on the fence) has declared it will formally “recognise, but not celebrate” Margaret Court in an attempt to separate her sporting legacy from her long history of bigoted commentary.

Court, for her part, wants to be lionised like her contemporary Rod Laver. Crikey takes a look at some of the more controversial statements the player-turned-pastor has made over her career. 

  • On apartheid, 1970: “South Africans have this thing better organised than any other country, particularly America.”
  • When rejecting an offer to join the women’s lib movement, 1971: “If you worry too much about money, you become hard, like a man.”
  • On playing in apartheid South Africa with her Indigenous doubles partner Evonne Goolagong, 1971: “Even if the South African government rejects Evonne on racial grounds I will still go.”
  • On opponent Martina Navratilova, 1990: “A great player but I’d like someone at the top who the younger players can look up to. It’s very sad for children to be exposed to homosexuality. Martina is a nice person. Her life has just gone astray.”
  • On the birth of tennis player Casey Dellacqua’s baby in a same-sex relationship, 2013: “This baby has seemingly been deprived of a father.”
  • On gay marriage, 2017: “They want marriage because they want to destroy it … There will be no Mother’s Day, there will be no Father’s Day, there will be no Easter, there will be no Christmas.”
  • On Qantas’ stance on marriage equality, 2017: “I am disappointed that Qantas has become an active promoter for same-sex marriage … I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible.”
  • On LGBTIQ rights, 2017: “Tennis is full of lesbians”; LGBTIQ tendencies are “all the devil”; and speaking to children about same-sex rights and transgenderism is akin to “what Hitler did”.

And finally, in 2013, some advice of her own that Court might consider heeding:

  • “If things aren’t right in your life or you’re not where you want to be check up on your mouth, what are you saying?”