Margaret Court’s latest controversial comments have gone global and divided opinion, with some praising her for speaking out while others condemn her for spreading hatred.
The Australian tennis great ramped up her controversial views over the weekend, this time taking aim at transgender athletes in another fiery sermon at a Perth church.
Court, who successfully battled for the 50th anniversary of her grand slam to be marked by Tennis Australia at the Australian Open next month, condemned trans athletes at the Pentecostal church where she is a minister.
"Because we are living in a season ... even that LGBT and the schools - it's of the devil, it's not of God," Court told her congregation.
"And when children are making the decision at seven or eight years of age to change their sex ... no, just read the first two chapters of Genesis, that's all I say. Male and female.
"It's so wrong at that age because a lot of things are planted in this thought realm at that age. And they start to question 'What am I?' and if you are a Christian... you believe the word of God, this is our TV guide to life...
"And you know with that LGBT, they'll wish they never put the T on the end of it because, particularly in women's sports, they're going to have so many problems.
"And you have got young people taking hormones and having changes, by the time they are 17 they are thinking, 'Now I'm a boy and really I was a girl'. Because, you know what, God's made us that way.”
The reaction to Court’s comments has been fearsome, but not everyone is outraged.
American author Eric Metaxas said Court is “probably the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, and she’s used her platform heroically. Thank you, Margaret Court.”
She is probably the greatest women's tennis player of all time, and she's used her platform heroically. Thank you, Margaret Court. https://t.co/Z2jxtN4TmA— Eric Metaxas (@ericmetaxas) December 30, 2019
Australian political activist Lyle Shelton said Court’s views were “not controversial but mainstream”.
“Millions share her concern for women’s sport. Parents are worried about radical gender fluid indoctrination of their children. Yet the left viciously attacks Margaret for speaking the truth,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The battle for truth and freedom of speech should not be borne by this courageous woman alone. Where are our political, religious and other civil society leaders? Have we surrendered to rainbow lies about biology and the human condition? Is courage dead in Australia?”
Again, Margaret Court has “condemned” no one. The headline in the @theage is fake. Millions share her concern for women’s sport. Parents are worried about radical 🏳️🌈 gender fluid indoctrination of their children. Yet the left viciously attacks Margaret for speaking the truth. https://t.co/MXaSf1fj2W— Lyle Shelton (@LyleShelton) December 30, 2019
The battle for truth & freedom of speech should not be borne by this courageous woman alone. Where are our political, religious & other civil society leaders? Have we surrendered to 🏳️🌈 lies about biology & the human condition? Is courage dead in Australia? https://t.co/2G1aeqXYvD— Lyle Shelton (@LyleShelton) December 30, 2019
Tennis Australia caught in tricky predicament
However Aussie TV and radio personality Gus Worland is seething, calling on Tennis Australia to revoke her invite to the Australian Open.
“Tennis Australia want us to say there’s the person and there’s the actual player but you can’t (separate them),” Worland said on the Today Show. “The simple fact is she’s awful — and what she’s saying is awful. It’s spreading hatred.
“So at the end of the day I’d put a line through her completely. I’d take her name off the arena down there in Melbourne and say ‘you’re done and dusted’ …
“When she comes out with that sort of vile, that sort of hatred, that’s where you put a line through someone.
“The timing is terrible. She knows exactly what she’s doing. We’re about to have the Australian Open. We’re all going to get focused on the tennis down there in Melbourne — and we know her opponent. She’s just restating it again … and she’s (thumbing her nose) at all the tennis authorities and all the lovers and supporters of the game.”
Jessica Irvine of the Sydney Morning Herald agreed with Worland, saying: “Hopefully in the next decade we’ll have left these views behind. It’s just so disappointing.”
“Australians want to celebrate our sporting heroes and she’s amazing. But can we separate the views she has that I believe are unacceptable to the Australian people and celebrate her sporting wins? I don’t think you can separate the two.”
Court also reiterated that being gay was "a choice" and said that just because she didn't agree with people, didn't mean she hated them.
She also highlighted the difficulty of talking about her religious beliefs, claiming "the devil" had control over the media and government.
"The devil gets in and the media and the political, the education, TV - he wants to control a nation so he can affect people's minds and mouths," she said.
Tennis Australia was torn over how to commemorate its greatest woman player, whose opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage has made her a polarising figure among players.
The dispute over her anniversary was eventually settled, with Tennis Australia agreeing to "recognise but not celebrate" Court's achievement.
However there are plenty of fans who are now calling on Tennis Australia to reconsider.
When we stand up for the most marginalised, we stand up for all of us. It's time for @TennisAustralia to withdraw Margaret Court's invitation to be an honoured guest at the Australian Open. https://t.co/ut7S6jq3Tt— Ricki Coughlan (@RickiCoughlan) December 30, 2019
Now’s the time to change the name of Margaret Court arena. How about naming if after John Cain. After all it was he who saved the Australian Open from becoming a non event. @theage— tony g (@tonyg2306) December 30, 2019
I knew this would be Margaret Court before I even read the article. She mustn't be honoured at the Australian Open - her views are vile!— Sarah Pegg (@sarahpegg9) December 30, 2019
@TennisAustralia just wondering if you intend withdrawing your invitation for Margaret court to attend the Australian open following her most recent comments on the gay and transgender community?— robbie (@robbierocket7) December 30, 2019
Honouring Margaret Court at the Australian Open after her latest comments will significantly impact young LGBT tennis players. You look at who your sport is honouring and then wonder if you have a place in it? Hugely harmful.— Dr Lucy Brown (@CharmedLassie) December 30, 2019