Martina Navratilova calls for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed

Former world No. 1 Martina Navratilova said she believes the Margaret Court Arena should be renamed because of the Australian's controversial views on sexuality and race.

Navratilova said Tennis Australia should remove Court's name and rename the stadium in honor of Evonne Goolagong, who Navratilova said is the "embodiment of what a role model or hero truly is."

"Nobody disputes her achievements on the tennis court, and her place in the sport's history remains as distinguished as it gets," Navratilova wrote of Court in an open letter to Tennis.com.

"Nobody wants to take away or diminish her career, least of all me. Margaret, Billie Jean [King] and Rod [Laver] were my childhood heroes. I wanted to be like them.

"So, it pains me to say this, but Margaret Court Arena must be renamed."

Court was presented with a special trophy on Monday at Melbourne Park, 50 years after she won the Grand Slam of Wimbledon, the US Open, Roland Garros and the Australian Open in 1970.

But the Australian Open has been careful to distance itself from her views, which, it says, have "demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years. They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion."

Tennis Australia has previously said that any decision about renaming any of the Australian Open stadiums would have to be taken by the State of Victoria, which owns Melbourne Park.

Navratilova said Court's continued comments, including views on transgender and same-sex marriage, have crossed a line.

"When Margaret goes out of her way to single out a group of people and tell them they don't deserve equal rights, that they are less than good parents, that they are not godly, that's not merely free speech," she said. "It's hateful and hurtful speech and it's injurious to countless vulnerable people."

At last year's Australian Open, Billie Jean King said she thought Court's name should be removed.

"I think it's really important if you're going to have your name on anything, that you're hospitable, you're inclusive, you're open arms to everyone that comes. It's a public facility," King said.

Navratilova said the perfect solution would be to rename the stadium the Evonne Goolagong Arena, in honor of the woman who won seven Grand Slam titles.

"Why not pick someone whom every child can look up to and want to emulate -- a champion who inspires and motivates young and old to do their best and be their best every day? For me, that person is Evonne Goolagong," Navratilova said.

"Her heritage, her success against the odds, her Hall of Fame career and her exemplary life off court, in which she has given so much of herself to so many causes, are all attributes we can celebrate wholeheartedly."

Navratilova's comments follow those of John McEnroe, who called on Serena Williams to win the two Grand Slams she needs to overtake Court's all-time record of 24. "Serena, do me a favor: Get two more Grand Slams this year and get to 25 so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past, where they belong," McEnroe said on Eurosport.

Navratilova and McEnroe incurred the wrath of Tennis Australia earlier on Tuesday when they walked onto Margaret Court Arena and unfurled a banner saying "Evonne Goolagong Arena", while the sound was cut when Navratilova tried to address the crowd.

"We embrace diversity, inclusion and the right for people to have a view, as well as the right to voice that view," Tennis Australia said in a statement.

"But the Australian Open has regulations and protocols with respect to how any fan, player or guest can use our facility, the event and the global stage it provides. This is to ensure the integrity of the event.

"Two high-profile guests have breached these protocols and we are working through this with them."

Navratilova responded with an apology for "breaking protocol" by unfurling the banner without permission.