John McEnroe has reportedly ‘hung up’ on Melbourne radio host Neil Mitchell after a fiery debate about his stance on Margaret Court.
McEnroe and Martina Navratilova apologised on Wednesday for a breach of "protocol" at the Australian Open after an on-court protest against Court.
Navratilova and McEnroe called for Court's name to be stripped from the second showcourt at Melbourne Park on Tuesday and replaced by Australia's former World No.1 Evonne Goolagong.
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Court, who holds the all-time record of 24 grand slam singles titles, has been heavily criticised for voicing her religious-based opposition to same-sex marriage and transgender athletes.
Speaking on 3AW Radio on Thursday morning about the furore, McEnroe and Mitchell clashed about the issue after Mitchell said many thought the American had ‘insulted Australia’.
“I think that's a little going overboard, personally. Tennis Australia and I have had an excellent relationship – they've done a fantastic job with this tournament and made it bigger and better each and every year,” McEnroe said.
“To say that I'm insulting Australia – I don't see where you can take it to that level. That certainly wasn't what we were planning on doing. That would not be intentional and I'd be quite surprised if people felt that way.”
Mitchell then said he didn’t agree with Court’s views but didn’t think she was being ‘homophobic’.
The radio host also asked McEnroe if Tennis Australia had threatened to strip him of his accreditation, which set the American tennis legend off.
“As far as I know, that wasn’t threatened. Perhaps if there is more people like you, maybe they will reconsider it, I don’t know,” McEnroe said.
“You seem to have a view that you completely disagree and either subtly or forcefully you’re not agreeing with which is OK.
“It also sounds like you’re insinuating, to me at least, maybe I’m overreaching here but it seems like you’re looking at perhaps they (Tennis Australia) should do more.”
Mitchell took exception to McEnroe’s suggestion, stating that he has been a vocal supporter of gay marriage in Australia.
McEnroe then wrapped up the interview after only about two minutes.
“Listen mate, I’ve got a match in a little bit. It’s OK to disagree with me but you don’t have to try to like, you know, with the way you’re talking to me, it seems like you’re looking for trouble,” McEnroe said.
After some more short exchanges Mitchell said: “Enjoy the tennis and thank you very much for speaking to us” before McEnroe abruptly hung up.
Neil Mitchell conducted a testy live interview with tennis champ John McEnroe on air this morning. Neil told John about how great an advocate of same-sex marriage he is. McEnroe is not to know this, so he questioned Neil's boast. It wasn't as if the tennis player called him liar.— Andrew Trezise (@Weskittun) January 29, 2020
Later on Thursday McEnroe appeared on the Today Show on Channel Nine (watch the video above) in which he sent a message to Court.
“What she said in the past, her comments, to me go over the line of what should be acceptable, in my opinion,” McEnroe said.
“I would say to Margaret that ‘you are a tremendous champion. You should be perfectly entitled to your beliefs.’
“But I would say that (she needs) a little bit more understanding about each and every person’s, you know, the way they live their lives.”
Tennis Australia condemns protest
Tennis Australia hit out at Navratilova's and McEnroe's protest on Tuesday.
"I got in trouble, I am sorry I broke protocol," 18-times Grand Slam champion Navratilova, who is openly gay, said on Tennis Channel on Wednesday.
"I had no idea there was this kind of protocol. Had I known, I would have done it differently. But I would still have tried to make my statement, which is that you name buildings after not what people just did on the court, but also off the court, the whole body of work.
"So I've said my piece .... But I do apologise about breaking protocol. I did not need to do that."
McEnroe also claimed ignorance of Tennis Australia's protocols.
"Admittedly I was never one to study the rule book carefully or for that matter, even at times abide by the rules," the American said in a statement.
"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 was honoured in a low-key ceremony at Rod Laver Arena on Monday marking the 50th anniversary of her 1970 calendar Grand Slam.
Tennis Australia President Jayne Hrdlicka said in November that removing Court's name from the stadium was not on the governing body's agenda.