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McEnroe, Navratilova sorry for rules breach after Margaret Court protest

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Melbourne (AFP)

Tennis legends John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova apologised on Wednesday for breaking Australian Open protocols after their on-court protest targeting controversial Australian great Margaret Court.

The two Americans said sorry after unfurling a banner calling for a stadium named after Court -- criticised over her deeply conservative views -- to be renamed 'Evonne Goolagong Arena' after the three-time Australian Open winner.

But they did not row back on their demand concerning Margaret Court Arena.

"I got in trouble, I am sorry I broke protocol," Navratilova said on the Tennis Channel. "I had no idea there was this kind of protocol.

"Had I known, I would have done it differently. I would have still tried to make my statement, which is that you name buildings after not what people did on the court, but also off the court, the whole body of work."

McEnroe, who like Navratilova is doing media work and playing veterans' doubles at the Australian Open, also said he wasn't aware of the rules governing credential-holders.

"Admittedly I was never one to study the rule book carefully or, for that matter, even at times abide by the rules," McEnroe said in a statement, according to ESPN.

"In this case, I was not aware of the Tennis Australia rules and protocol for issuing credentials. 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."

Court, a record 24-time Grand Slam champion, has been honoured this week at the Australian Open for the 50th anniversary of her calendar-year Grand Slam.

But that has been overshadowed by past controversies such as praising South Africa's apartheid system, saying "tennis is full of lesbians" and describing transgender children as "the work of the devil".

McEnroe ridiculed Court as a "crazy aunt" this week, calling her comments "offensive and homophobic", while Navratilova said her views were "actually hurting people".

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