Top Honor for a Tennis Player With Intolerant Views Draws Outrage


Since retiring, Ms. Court’s legacy has been increasingly overshadowed by her intolerant views, and she has alienated many in the tennis world. In 1991, she said that lesbianism had ruined women’s tennis. A Pentecostal minister, she has vocally opposed same-sex marriage, compared L.G.B.T.Q. education to the work of the devil and denounced transgender athletes.

There are ongoing calls to strip Ms. Court’s name from Melbourne Park’s second-biggest stadium, which was named after her in 2003 and is one of the sites of the Australian Open, set to begin next month. Referring to the annual eruptions of anger surrounding Ms. Court, Mr. Andrews, the premier of Victoria, said, “Do we really have to do this every single summer?”

Tennis Australia, the country’s governing body for the sport, has resisted pressure to rename the stadium while seeking to distance itself from Ms. Court. Last year, when it recognized the 50th anniversary of her 1970 Grand Slam, it put out a disclaimer: “Tennis Australia does not agree with Court’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, when asked about the new award at a news conference on Friday, said he could not comment, given that the recipients had not been publicly announced. (The news about Ms. Court has been circulating online.) He added that they had been chosen via an “independent set of processes” and that the system “recognizes Australians from right across the full spectrum of achievement in this country.”

Last year, the Order of Australia awards were overshadowed by controversy around one recipient, Bettina Arndt, a vocal campaigner against what she describes as the “demonization of men in our society.” Ms. Arndt was widely condemned for praising a police officer for “keeping an open mind” about whether a man accused of murdering his wife and children had been “driven too far.”

Following that public backlash, the Council for the Order of Australia released a statement noting that its recommendations “are not an endorsement of the political, religious or social views of recipients, nor is conferral of an honor an endorsement of the personally held beliefs of recipients.”

It added, “In a system that recognizes hundreds of people each year, it is inevitable that each list will include some people who others believe should not be recognized.”


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