Controversial LGBT remarks lead to calls for Aussie arena to be renamed

King said she originally lobbied for Court to be honoured by tournament organisers but she couldn't longer support the showcourt bearing her friend's name

Fifteen years agon when an arena at Australia's Melbourne Park was named for the country's 24-time Grand Slam victor Margaret Court, tennis legend and activist Billie Jean King spoke on behalf of honoring the former athlete turned Pentecostal minister for her towering achievements in the sport.

In the months since Court threatened her boycott of the airline, she amped up her anti-LGBT rhetoric, saying that LGBT people "Want marriage because they want to destroy it".

Court is not attending this year's Australian Open, which starts Monday, but has been a regular guest in the past.

"I would be very welcome to Margaret", said King, 74.

Pentecostal Christian pastor Court, who holds the record for winning most Grand Slam singles titles at 24, is a defender of traditional marriage and family.

The tennis champion admits that she was one of the proponents of the push to have part of the Rod Laver Arena named after Court in recognition of her tennis achievements, but says Court's comments about gender and sexuality have gone too far. "It's a public facility". Maybe because of our community, the LGBTIQ community, people might feel differently.

King, one of the original professionals in women's tennis and victor of 12 major singles titles in the Open era, said she had regularly met Court at tournaments in the years since they retired after "we grew up together playing each other".

"When she talked about children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge, I must say", she said.

"I was really for her to have it", she said.

"I think that if I'm going to have my name on anything ..."

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Court has repeatedly criticised "the gay lobby" for trying to influence children with the Safe Schools program, which aims at promoting the acceptance of LGBTQ+ students.

Over time, King said, Court's comments about gays and lesbians "really went deep in my heart and soul".

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

King said she wished Court, who lives in Perth, Western Australia, was in Melbourne so they could continue the conversation.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said Court had a standing invitation to the season-opening major, and would be welcome in future as she had been in the past.

Tiley said: "Our position has been pretty straightforward".

The players have been placed in a hard position and Konta was one of the few willing to really engage with the subject at her pre-tournament press conference.

But she said she could no could longer support the flagship court bearing her friend's name because of her views on sexuality. They are not the views of our organization and not the views of our sport.

Konta goes into the Australian Open as the ninth seed and reported a clean bill of health after the hip injury that forced her to retire in Brisbane last week.

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