McEnroe, Navratilova 'breached protocols' with Margaret Court protest


Melbourne (AFP)

Tennis greats Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe were rapped for breaking "protocols" at the Australian Open on Tuesday after they unfurled a protest banner demanding Margaret Court's name be stripped from a main arena over her controversial views.

The two legends had rounded on Court's "homophobic" opinions on Monday, when the 77-year-old Australian was honoured on the 50th anniversary of her 1970 calendar-year Grand Slam.

And on Tuesday McEnroe, who had labelled Court a "crazy aunt", and fellow American Navratilova went a step further, according to Australian media.

After a veterans match, they were pictured walking on court with a sign saying, "Evonne Goolagong Arena", calling for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed after three-time Major-winner Evonne Goolagong.

According to reports, the 63-year-old Navratilova climbed into the umpire's chair to make a speech, but the television feed was promptly cut.

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

"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 our event.

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

Court is the all-time record-holder for Grand Slam titles with 24, and one of only five players to win all four Majors in the same year.

To recognise that achievement, she received a replica Australian Open trophy from Australian legend Rod Laver on Monday in a low-key ceremony at Melbourne Park.

Navratilova, a frequently critic of Court, issued an open letter on Tuesday demanding a name-change for Margaret Court Arena.

"It pains me to say this, but Margaret Court Arena must be renamed," she wrote.

"As a worthy replacement, my vote goes to Evonne Goolagong.

"Evonne is the embodiment of what a role model or hero truly is."

Court's controversies include praising South Africa's apartheid system, saying "tennis is full of lesbians" and describing transgender children as "the work of the devil".

The devout Christian hit back at her detractors last week, saying she was being "persecuted" for her beliefs.