Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe have apologised for breaking Australian Open protocol with a banner calling for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed.
Navratilova is a critic of record Grand Slam winner Court’s views on the gay, lesbian and transgender community.
The Americans displayed a banner which bore the words ‘Evonne Goolagong Arena’ in recognition of the four-time Australian Open champion.
“I got in trouble. I am sorry I broke protocol,” Navratilova said.
Speaking to Tennis Channel, the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion added: “I had no idea there was this kind of protocol. Had I known I would have done it differently.
“But I would still have tried and made my statement, which is basically you name buildings after not what people just did on the court but also off the court, the whole body of work.”
After playing in a legends match, Navratilova climbed into the umpire’s chair on Tuesday at Melbourne Park, and invited McEnroe on to the court where they displayed the banner which she had painted in aboriginal style.
Three years ago, in an open letter to Court, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Navratilova suggested Goolagong – an indigenous Australian – would be more worthy of the title.
McEnroe said in a statement: “Admittedly I was never one to study the rule book carefully or for that matter, even at times abide by the rules. For that I apologise to Tennis Australia and recognise and appreciate the great job they have done to make the Australian Open a great event for the fans, players and myself.”
Navratilova told BBC Sport on Tuesday that she “wanted to push the conversation forward” while Tennis Australia said “two high-profile guests” had breached its protocols.
The TV feed was cut while Navratilova was speaking in the umpire’s chair.
The previous day on Eurosport, McEnroe had criticised Court’s “offensive and homophobic” views.
The Margaret Court Arena was named after the record 24-time Grand Slam singles champion in 2003.
In 2017, Court, who is now a Christian pastor, criticised the airline Qantas for becoming an “active promoter for same-sex marriage”.
She then did an interview for a Christian radio station in which she said tennis is “full of lesbians” and transgender children are the work of “the devil”.
On Monday, Tennis Australia held a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of Court winning all four of the sport’s Grand Slam titles in 1970.
Tennis Australia has consistently stated it does not agree with Court’s personal views as they do not align with its values of “equality, diversity and inclusion”.
Article courtesy of BBC Sport