Tennis body plays winning shot in Court controversy

EDITORIAL: If you leave Melbourne Park for a wander around the city, you'll come across a number of monuments and statues.

You can't miss Matthew Flinders Memorial, or the train station named after the English navigator and cartographer who circumnavigated Australia in the 17th century. There's also a monument in honour of Charles La Trobe, Victoria's first lieutenant-governor.

Both men played important roles in the history and development of Australia, but their attitudes towards indigenous Australians, among others, would not stand up to scrutiny in more enlightened times (Flinders took the body of a "native" killed in a skirmish with his crew for scientific study, and La Trobe allowed rampant acquisition of indigenous land by farmers and others).

History looks on few kindly, and hindsight is always 20/20.

READ MORE:
* Tennis Australia rebukes Margaret Court for controversial views
* Why airbrushing Court from history is not right approach
* Tennis Australia will 'recognise but not celebrate' Court
* Margaret Court's rocket to Tennis Australia: Treat me like Rod Laver

If you venture back to Australia's national centre for tennis, and the home of the Australian Open, you'll find one of its grand arenas named after the world's greatest female tennis player, Margaret Court, still the best of the rest with 24 grand slam singles titles.

Early next year she will be honoured, grudgingly, for the 50th anniversary of winning the sport's calendar grand slam in 1969. We say grudgingly because Court has brought the same determination and single-mindedness to her current role of Pentecostal religious leader as she displayed in sporting arenas around the world.

Margaret Court is to be honoured for her achievements on the tennis court, but Tennis Australia is less impressed with her verbal volleys off it.
Paul Kane
Margaret Court is to be honoured for her achievements on the tennis court, but Tennis Australia is less impressed with her verbal volleys off it.

She has been unstinting in her opposition to same-sex marriage and homosexuality, which has put her at odds with Tennis Australia, its promotion of diversity and inclusion, and much of enlightened society.

Australia's leading tennis body, pushed by luminaries including Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, among others, has been struggling with how to recognise the feats of a female sporting pioneer who holds strong beliefs running counter to its mission statement.

It has come up with a solution that could be a valuable template for others facing such a dilemma and considering what is best: a vicious volley or a well-placed lob.

Tennis Australia will go ahead with its official recognition of Court's feats, but has clarified that it may respect her achievements but not her controversial views. In essence, it is saying, Margaret, we don't agree with you.

Australian tennis great Rod Laver has been honoured for his remarkable career, including 11 grand slam titles. Margaret Court believes she deserves similar recognition.
Clive Brunskill
Australian tennis great Rod Laver has been honoured for his remarkable career, including 11 grand slam titles. Margaret Court believes she deserves similar recognition.

Some may see this as an abrogation of its support for the LGBTIQ​ community and the general thrust of diversity, but an organisation that plays "a leadership role in supporting an inclusive community" surely must make some room too for those holding views it doesn't agree with. Even strongly held views.

That is an acid test for any society claiming to respect tolerance and diversity, including diversity of thought. Court has the right to hold such beliefs, even promote them; others have the right to disagree, and even demonstrate why they believe she is wrong.

Denying Court and others who might share those views (almost 40 per cent of Australians voted against same-sex marriage in 2017) doesn't lead to enlightenment; it creates a false vision of inclusion while fostering echo chambers of resentment and exclusion.

Tennis Australia has made its stance very clear; the rest of us can acknowledge Court's sporting career and make our own conclusions about her legacy on the court and off it.

The Dominion Post