Tag Archives: tennis

CEO quits after sexist comments about women tennis pros

The tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open who said women’s pro tennis players “ride on the coattails of the men” resigned on March 21, ending his 29-year association with the event.

Tournament owner Larry Ellison said in a statement that Raymond Moore was quitting as chief executive officer and tournament director of the $7 million event featuring men’s and women’s players in the California desert. Moore informed Ellison of his decision when they spoke earlier in the day.

“Ray let me know that he has decided to step down from his roles as CEO and tournament director effective immediately,” Ellison said. “I fully understand his decision.”

A tournament spokesman could offer no further details on Moore’s resignation, citing only Ellison’s statement.

CEO apologizes

Moore apologized after he was roundly criticized by executives from the women’s and men’s pro tours, players Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka and on social media for his comments Sunday.

The 69-year-old former touring pro from South Africa had been CEO of the tournament since 2012. He was involved with the event for 29 years as a former owner and managing partner before assuming his most recent post. He oversaw the operations of the tournament and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, which Ellison also owns. Years ago, Moore and fellow ex-player Charlie Pasarell started PM Sports Management, which oversaw the tournament as it expanded.

“In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA because they ride on the coattails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky,” Moore said. “If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.”

He also referred to women’s players as “physically attractive and competitively attractive.” Moore later apologized, calling his comments “in extremely poor taste and erroneous.”

“I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologize to all the players and WTA as a whole,” the statement said. “We had a women’s final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA. Again, I am truly sorry for my remarks.”

Moore clearly had no intention to leave his post based on comments he made to reporters Sunday on the last day of the two-week tournament. Before the backlash over his controversial comments began, he was asked how long he planned to remain in charge.

“Firstly, I love what I’m doing. I’m passionate about it. I enjoy it,” Moore said. “Who knows who the face of the tournament will be down the road. But I don’t think that, oh, I’m going to stop next year or three years.”

Ellison, a billionaire and co-founder of Oracle Corp., credited Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Serena and Venus Williams, as well as other female athletes, for their leadership in treating women and men equally in sports.

“I’m proud to say that it is now a decade-long tradition at our tournament at Indian Wells, and all the major tennis tournaments, to pay equal prize money to both the women and the men,” Ellison said in his statement.

Ellison thanked the “great women athletes” who fought so hard in pursuit of equal prize money in pro tennis.

“All of us here at the BNP Paribas Open promise to continue working with everyone to make tennis a better sport for everybody,” he said.

Statement from the tennis tournament

“Earlier today I had the opportunity to speak with Raymond Moore,” said BNP Paribas Open Owner, Larry Ellison. “Ray let me know that he has decided to step down from his roles as CEO and Tournament Director effective immediately. I fully understand his decision.”

“Nearly half a century ago, Billie Jean King began her historic campaign for the equal treatment of women in tennis. What followed is an ongoing, multi-generational, progressive movement to treat women and men in sports equally. Thanks to the leadership of Billie Jean, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and so many other great women athletes, an important measure of success has already been achieved. I’m proud to say that it is now a decade long tradition at our tournament at Indian Wells, and all the major tennis tournaments, to pay equal prize money to both the women and the men.”

“I would like to personally thank all the great women athletes who fought so hard for so many years in the pursuit of equal prize money in professional tennis. And I’d like to congratulate them on their success. All of us here at the BNP Paribas Open promise to continue working with everyone to make tennis a better sport for everybody,” concluded Ellison.

Billie Jean King: Caitlyn Jenner helps transgender tolerance

Billie Jean King says Caitlyn Jenner has given people clarity about transgender issues beyond the progress already made four decades after they shared the international sports spotlight.

“The interview … really helped people to be clear in understanding, especially about gender vs. sexuality,” the 71-year-old former tennis star told The Associated Press. She was referring to Jenner’s interview on ABC’s Diane Sawyer in April. “Everybody’s always getting very confused with that. Then they finally realized they have nothing to do with each other.”

King won the last of her 12 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon in 1975, a year before Jenner, now 65, earned the unofficial title of “world’s greatest athlete” by winning gold in the decathlon at the Montreal Olympics.

“Finally Caitlyn will be,” King said. “It’s been a long journey for Caitlyn, and I’m really happy for her.”

King occasionally traveled in the same circles with Jenner, given they were two of the most recognizable athletes in the 1970s.

King said, “We actually did a commercial together, but I don’t think they ever showed it.”

King was 29 when she defeated former professional tennis player Bobby Riggs, 55, in the famed “Battle of the Sexes” match in 1973, putting gender issues in the spotlight.

When she started the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973, King helped pros accept a transgender player in their ranks — Renee Richards, who was denied the opportunity to play as a woman in the 1976 U.S. Open.

The New York Supreme Court ruled in Richards’ favor, allowing her to join the women’s pro tour in 1977.

King said she called the players together after meeting with Richards for four hours. “I said `We’re going to have her on the tour, so get used to it.’ Some were unhappy, some were trying to figure it out. But it worked out fantastic,” King said. “The players ended up loving Renee.”

King played doubles with Richards, who reached the U.S. Open women’s doubles finals in 1977 with Betty Ann Stuart. Richards, who was also a renowned ophthalmologist, later coached Martina Navratilova and “really improved her backhand,” King said.

King marvels at how attitudes have changed since the early 1970s.

“Being educated, learning, having knowledge is so much better,” she said. “Usually things become less shame-based the more you know. An unknown is what people usually fear the most.”

Richards is still King’s eye doctor and “One of the best people I’ve ever known. She’s been a great role model.”

While Richards fought through the courts for acceptance, Jenner came out as Caitlyn via Twitter and was immediately named the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for the upcoming ESPY Awards on July 15.

King, who was outed as a lesbian in 1981, won the award for individual contributions that “transcend sports” in 1999.

“Caitlyn’s in for a whirlwind. She already has been, but it’s going to be crazy,” King said. “I think it’s really appropriate that Caitlyn’s won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.”

Martina Navratilova proposes to girlfriend on big screen at US Open

Tennis great Martina Navratilova proposed to her girlfriend on the big screen of Arthur Ashe Stadium between the U.S. Open men’s semifinals.

Navratilova popped the question to Julia Lemigova in the Tennis Channel suite Saturday, drawing a loud cheer from the crowd.

“I was very nervous,” Navratilova said later. “It came off. She said yes. It was kind of an out-of-body experience. You’ve seen people propose at sporting events before, in movies, in real life. Here it was happening to me. It was like I was watching myself do it.”

The 57-year-old Navratilova won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, a mark she shares with Chris Evert. Serena Williams will try to match it in Sunday’s women’s final.

Navratilova said somebody suggested she propose during a changeover in the first match between Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic, but she didn’t want to disturb the players in any way. The only problem was that Navratilova was later scheduled to play a “Champions” doubles match with Jana Novotna against Tracy Austin and Gigi Fernandez. She tried unsuccessfully to get the start postponed without telling anybody why, so she was fretting that the Nishikori-Djokovic match would go five sets. Fortunately, it ended in four.

After the triumph in her personal life, Navratilova was also victorious in doubles.

When Navratilova walked into the locker room to get ready for the match, Austin didn’t know anything about what had just happened. The two chatted for a few minutes before Navratilova mentioned the proposal in passing.

Austin then made her re-enact the whole thing.

Navratilova said she and Lemigova would prefer to get married in Florida, where they live. A federal judge ruled last month that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, but Florida officials are appealing.

Navratilova reminisced about her 1981 U.S. Open finals loss to Austin, when the fans gave her a long ovation as the runner-up, as the first time she felt accepted as a newly minted American citizen and a gay woman. Thirty-three years later, gay couples can marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and Navratilova’s proposal got another big cheer from the U.S. Open crowd.

In the game… WiG’s annual Pride pop quiz

No doubt you know the words to “Go! You Packers! Go” and the name of that guy who wears No. 12 — maybe you know his career passing yards.

And probably you know which Major League Baseball team is No. 1 in the National League’s Central Division and how many games are left until the All-Stars head for Minneapolis.

But how do you score on WiG’s LGBTQuiz?

1. True or False: Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, recently signed a $2.65 million contract with the Chicago Bears.

2. Which basketball player came out in a cover story in Sports Illustrated?

3. She’s won 39 Grand Slam titles and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her name is …

4. He is the only male and the second diver in Olympic history to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic Games.

5. This gay baseball player, who died of AIDS in 1995, is credited with inventing the high five when he played for the Dodgers.

6. Her Twitter bio says, “Used to play tennis, now just talk about it on tennis channel. like to talk politics, though some would rather I stick to tennis :). No chance!!!”

7. She had to go to court to play and, after transitioning, she competed in the U.S. Open.

8. He played. He retired. He came out. Then he returned to the soccer field.

P.S. Yes, we’re aware this would be more difficult without the photographs…

Answers: 1. False, he signed with the St. Louis Rams. 2. Jason Collins, who played with the Nets in 2014. 3. Tennis legend Billie Jean King. 4. Greg Louganis. 5. Glenn Burke. 6. Martina Navratilova, considered by many in the sport to be the greatest 

female tennis player. 7. Tennis player Renee Richards. Paired with Betty and Stuart, Richards lost in doubles at the open to Navratilova and Betty Stove. 8. Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay man to join Major League Soccer. 

 

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Billie Jean King: On Sochi Olympics, Putin, gay equality

Billie Jean King’s taxi ride home after the Sochi Olympics included a revelation.

She learned Jason Collins had joined the Brooklyn Nets, becoming the first openly gay male player in the NBA.

“I was totally stoked and texted him immediately,” said King, who saw the news on a TV in her cab in New York. “When my mom died, he called and left a message. I talked to him when he first came out. We’ve just hit it off.”

She was originally scheduled to attend the opening ceremony, but her 91-year-old mother died that day.

The closing ceremony wrapped up a 17-day sports extravaganza with Russia atop the medal standings and few outward displays of disapproval by international athletes of the country’s anti-gay law. Rule 50 of the Olympic charter restricts political gestures or protest by athletes, who mostly shied away from commenting about the topic in Sochi.

King has been outspoken about the Russian law passed last year that banned gay “propaganda” to minors, punishable by fines and jail time. The openly gay former tennis great said she’d like the International Olympic Committee to add sexual orientation to the list of protections in its charter and consider the issue when deciding host countries for future Olympics.

Here are five things to know about King’s impressions of the Sochi Games, borscht and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

PUTIN, A HUGGER: King learned while in Sochi that Putin reportedly hugged Ireen Wust, a bisexual Dutch speedskater who led all Sochi medal winners with five — two gold and three silver.

“It’s great,” King said. “Think he knew it? Doesn’t matter, that’s the way the world should be. He should be embracing humanity.”

Putin said ahead of the Olympics that gay athletes and visitors were welcome, but warned to “leave the kids alone.”

MIXED MESSAGES: King said she met with a Russian teen who is gay and getting bullied.

“I’m worried about the LGBT community for their safety,” she said. “Basically, it’s OK to hate now and you can get away with it. I’m concerned, more than concerned. The main thing is to let them know we care and we can help LGBT organizations that help the community. Dialogue is always good, but action is important, too.

“The athletes pretty much kept it mainstream, ‘this is about sports, keep the politics out.’ There’s politics in everything, especially with this.”

HOCKEY HEARTBREAK: U.S. hockey player Julie Chu met King a few days after the team lost to Canada 3-2 in overtime in the gold-medal game. The U.S. had a 2-0 lead with less than 4 minutes left in regulation.

King was “heartbroken” after the loss, noting she’s become “hooked on hockey” after hanging around former U.S. Olympic hockey stars Angela Ruggiero and Caitlin Cahow. Ruggiero is now an IOC member and Cahow represented the U.S. at the opening ceremony.

Chu, a four-time Olympian, was the U.S. flag bearer at the closing ceremony.

BEST DISH: King recalled playing tennis in Russia at age 18 in 1962 when there was “hardly any food, just black bread.” While times have changed, she was hoping to get “some borscht, it’s the one thing I missed. I love borscht, but got cabbage soup instead. It was delicious.”

She visited the USA House and attended the closing ceremony with a U.S. delegation that included former Olympic gold-medal winning speedskaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden. “They are iconic. They are speedskating to me, they put it on the map.”

The U.S. delegation sat in VIP seats a section below Putin at the closing ceremony, but they weren’t shown by NBC. The opening ceremony delegation, featuring openly gay former Olympians Brian Boitano and Cahow, also weren’t shown by the network that paid $775 million for the rights to the games.

BREAKTHROUGHS: So what does it say about the evolution of male sports in America to have Collins in the NBA and openly gay Michael Sam expected to play in the NFL?

“We’re getting there. Because the youth, they don’t care as much,” said the 70-year-old King. “They’re judging people by their contribution on the team. It should be a non-issue. We need these breakthroughs and young people stepping up. It’s putting yourself in the spotlight.

“When they’re older, they’re going to appreciate the things they’re doing so much more. For me, it was tough — ‘will it ever end’ — but now I’m glad I went through it,” said King, who was outed in 1981. “It makes a small difference. It’s about human rights.”

PBS documentary celebrates when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs

6-4. 6-3. 6-3.

Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs on Sept. 20, 1973, in the Houston Astrodome in the widely seen and most politically charged tennis match in history.

Naomi Carter remembers the night: The television set tuned to ABC. A bottle of Pepsi and a bowl of popcorn on the TV tray. The kids and husband gathered around the living room. And the tension, as if everything was riding on King’s serve and volley.

“Oh, you know I didn’t do the dishes that night,” said Carter, 67, of Greenwich, Conn. “The significance of the event probably is lost on young people, but that night Billie Jean King proved something for all women.”

Carter recently toure  “The Battle of the Sexes: 40 Years Later” exhibit during the U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in New York and, like many other fans, turned to social media to share her impressions and remembrances. The exhibit, featuring a collection of match artifacts and images, also celebrates the creation of the Women’s Tennis Association and also the U.S. Open becoming the first Grand Slam tournament to award equal prize money to men and women. These are all milestones that King, who is openly lesbian, made happen.

“My job in the match was to change the hearts and minds of people to match the legislation of Title IX and what we were trying to do with the women’s movement,” King, 69, said in a news release from the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum, presenters of the exhibit. “It was to validate it, to celebrate it and to get it going toward changing a world where we had equality for both genders.”

Gail Harrell, 71, of Chicago, toured the exhibit, which included a “King Power” button, King’s Adidas tennis shoes and custom-designed tennis dress, Riggs’ SugarDaddy windbreaker, racquets and a “Liberation Match” scorecard. Later, Harrell said, “I’d forgotten how much I liked the term ‘women’s lib.’ I’m going to bring that back.”

U.S. Open fan Michael Cox, 49, of Detroit, also toured the exhibit: “I’m a big fan of the Williams sisters and women’s tennis, which wouldn’t be what it is without Billie Jean.”

PBS also is marking the anniversary of the Battle of the Sexes with “American Masters: Billie Jean King,” the first episode in the long-running series to profile an athlete. The episode premieres on Sept. 10.

“Billie Jean King embodies the art of sports, of humanism and of activism,” said “American Masters” executive producer Susan Lacy. “For more than 50 years, her excellence and example have sparked the way for changes that enrich us all.”

Filmmaker James Erskine said, “Almost from the first time she picked up a racket, Billie Jean King has understood the power of sport as a major cultural force to shape society; and it was her insight to use the emotional energy borne on the playing field to fight for equality and social justice. Through her life she has faced triumph and adversity with equal measure, battling both on and off the court for a better world.” 

In the documentary, King tells her story, with perspectives provided by Bobby Riggs’ son, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elton John, Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Chris Evert, Rosie Casals, Gloria Steinem, Valerie Jarrett and others.

All the accomplishments and career highlights are covered: King won her first of a record 20 Wimbledon titles in 1961 and went on to win 39 Grand Slam titles. She’s received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and been named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century.” She founded the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974 to advance the lives of women and girls through sports and more recently co-founded GreenSlam to promote environmentalism in sports. She’s a trustee of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. She’s the first female athlete to earn more than $100,000 in a single season and one of six inaugural inductees into the Court of Fame.

King, early in the documentary, recalls her childhood passion for sports, including finding odd jobs as a kid to buy her first tennis racket and playing all day to become the best. She loved the game and loved winning, and she recognized tennis, at the time an elitist sport, could become a platform to fight for equality.

Discrimination throughout the 1960s, the rise of women’s liberation in the 1970s, the solidarity of nine suffragettes in tennis are reviewed  as the show builds up to the big battle in Houston.

King had repeatedly resisted Riggs’ requests for a match. A loss, she feared, could set back the women’s rights movement. But Margaret Court, ranked No. 1 among the women players, agreed to a Mother’s Day match with Riggs, for a guarantee of $35,000, win or lose.

“I had no idea,” Court, in the documentary, says of the hype and harassment Riggs had planned. She opened the match with a curtsy, got trounced and almost immediately the focus turned to King as defender of women’s tennis.

“If I could win … I could help social issues move forward,” King remembers in the show. At the same time she was preparing for the match and dealing with the media exposure, King was acknowledging her lesbianism and fearing what might happen to the women’s tour if she was outed. “I had to play Bobby Riggs … and just stay focused. I hit hundreds of overheads every day.”

Battle of the Sexes viewers – there were more than 90 million worldwide – likely remember the spectacle before the match as much as the outcome. Riggs arrived on a rickshaw, accompanied by scantily clad female models, and King arrived in a throne carried by four muscle men, like a Cleopatra of the court. At the net, King presented Riggs – who had made certain the women in the worldwide audience considered him a male chauvinist pig – with a piglet named Larimore Hustle.

For King, winning the first set was critical.

Elton John was watching ABC that night: “I was praying.”

Hillary Clinton was with a group of friends and watching so closely she had to remember to “breathe in, breathe out.”

Howard Cosell provided the memorable coverage in his trademark staccato delivery: “You can sense the kill.”

Casals has described it as “the match of the century” while Evert has said King’s victory transcended tennis.

Riggs, after the loss, said he was “killed by the woman.”

But to King, he confided that he’d underestimated her.

Navratilova holds court at Australian Open

Martina Navratilova never shirked a challenge in her glittering tennis career, and she isn’t shy about giving an opinion either.

The winner of 167 singles titles and one of the greatest players faced a news conference at the Australian Open on Monday and addressed issues ranging from Margaret Court’s criticism of same-gender marriage to prize money at Grand Slam tournaments.

Eyebrows were raised when Navratilova’s first match in the legends’ doubles Sunday was scheduled for Margaret Court Arena, AP reported. The 55-year-old Navratilova didn’t even consider a boycott. Instead, the longtime advocate for gay rights wore a rainbow-colored patch on her sleeve as she and Nicole Bradtke beat Martina Hingis and Iva Majoli.

The 69-year-old Court, an 11-time Australian Open champion who is now a Christian pastor, caused a stir before this year’s tournament when she told media in Western Australia that “politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take.”

Navratilova was gracious when talking about the venue and scheduling of her opening match.

“Playing on Margaret Court Arena, it’s an honor, as always, to be on that court,” Navratilova said. “You know, it’s not a personal issue. Clearly Margaret Court’s views that she has expressed on same sex marriage, I think are outdated.

“But it’s not about any one person. It’s not about religious rights, it’s about human rights. It’s a secular view, not a religious view.”

Navratilova said she hadn’t spoken to Court for years.

“She was all about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. She repeated that about four or five times, so I just felt I couldn’t get through to her,” Navratilova said. “Maybe she thought she could get through to me.”

In a career spanning 33 years, Navratilova won 167 titles in singles, and 177 in doubles. She won the first of her 18 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon in 1978 to claim the top ranking for the first of a total of 332 weeks.

She refuses to criticize Caroline Wozniacki, who has been No. 1 since October 2010 but hasn’t won a major and reached her only Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open in 2009.

A system that doesn’t place enough importance on the quality of opponents a player has beaten is to blame, according to Navratilova, who believes Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova had a claim to be considered the true No. 1.

“It weighs too much on quantity and not enough on quality,” Navratilova said of the points-based rankings system. “They both get to a semis and one player beats No. 1 player and No. 3 player to get to the semis, and the other one gets qualifiers and they get the same amount of points. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Navratilova has spoken to the WTA, which runs the women’s tour, but doesn’t know if any officials are listening.

“Maybe they will hear it now,” she said. “But I asked are they changing the system, and they have no intention to. I think it’s a mistake.”

Navratilova’s next conversation might be with Grand Slam tournament organizers over the vexed issue of prize money.

The subject came to light on the eve of the Australian Open following a meeting of the men’s players. Many of them believe that prize money has not increased in line with growing profits at the four majors – and some are prepared to go as far as striking to make their point.

“I think the Grand Slams are making a lot more than they’re sharing with the players. I think that’s a fact,” Navratilova said. “When the players try to talk to them, the Grand Slams are like, ‘Oh, well. Get lost. Too bad.’

“If the men and women got together I think the Grand Slams would listen. The players made the slams big and the slams made the players big. It’s a very symbiotic relationship, but the slams are ruling the roost. They dictate everything to the players.”

Multimillionaire players complaining about how much they earn doesn’t often garner much sympathy from fans, but Navratilova says the point is still valid.

“Compared to what a teacher is making, we are grossly overpaid,” she said. “Compared to what the slams are netting, they are underpaid.”

Prize money has come a long way since Navratilova’s day though.

“I think I won $6,000 when I got to the finals here in ’74,” she said. “Which I needed to make so I could pay the airline ticket back to the States.”

The men’s and women’s champions at the Australian Open will each receive $2.4 million in prize money, with the losing finalists getting $1.2 million. The 64 men and 64 women who lost in the first round of singles received $21,800.

Source: AP

Billie Jean King disagrees with Court on marriage

Tennis legend Billie Jean King, observing the Australian Open matches and controversy from California, said on Jan. 17 that she opposed former Australian tennis star Margaret Court’s views on same-sex marriage.

King, in an interview with the Desert Sun in California, said, “I totally respect her opinion, but I don’t agree with her at all. We have a rising problem with homophobia globally. This is about civil rights. It’s about equality, having equal opportunities and rights. Everyone gets too wigged out on it. I guess because it’s sexual, people get funny. But it’s just about equal rights. That’s all it is. And I don’t know what they’re trying to make it into. It’s just equal rights.”

King was in the Palm Springs area for a Health Matters conference.

Court, who retired from tennis years ago and is now a pastor, has generated headlines recently for statements against marriage equality.

She said, in advance of this week’s Australian Open, “Politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that is not theirs to take.”

She called gay and lesbian relationships “alternative, unhealthy, unnatural unions” and same-sex sex “abominable.”

Court’s remarks prompted a Facebook-driven campaign to spur protests at the open.

King and Court played two Australian Open finals – in 1968 and 1969. Court won in 1969 and King won in 1968.

Activists showing no love for Court at Australian Open

Nearly 40 years after she won the last of her 11 Australian Open singles titles, Margaret Court is still creating news at Melbourne Park. This time, though, the now Christian pastor has sparked controversy over her anti-gay comments.

The AP reported that Court has claimed homosexuality has tarnished women’s tennis and she has been vocal in her opposition to gay marriage, opinions which have put her offside with former WTA tour stars Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King.

The issue has helped create a Facebook group, “Rainbow Flags Over Margaret Court Arena,” which is urging spectators to display rainbow-colored gay Pride banners at the showcourt during the Australian Open, which starts today.

Rennae Stubbs, an Australian who has won four Grand Slam doubles titles, said she supports activists who might show their support for gay rights at Margaret Court Arena.

“Margaret has said her feelings and it’s public, and it has leverage,” said Stubbs, who has been open about her orientation. “So I think this is the only way the people feel that they can be heard, through a sign of solidarity. As long as it (a protest) is done tastefully, that’s the most important thing for me.”

Court, 69, recently told local media in Perth, Western Australia, where she now lives that “politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take.”

“The fact that the homosexual cry is, ‘We can’t help it, as we were born this way,’ as the cause behind their own personal choice is cause for concern,” added Court, who won her last Australian Open title in 1973.

Navratilova told TennisChannel.com that “seems to me a lot of people have evolved, as has the Bible. Unfortunately, Margaret Court has not … her myopic view is truly frightening as well as damaging to the thousands of children already living in same-gender families.”

Kerryn Phelps, former president of the Australian Medical Association and one of Australia’s most influential gay spokeswomen, has called on the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia to drop Court’s name from the 6,000-seat show court arena named in her honor.

“Time to rename Margaret Court Arena,” Phelps tweeted.

Tennis Australia said in a statement that although it respects Court’s playing record as “second to none … her personal views are her own, and are definitely not shared by Tennis Australia.”

“Like the WTA, we believe that everyone should be treated equally and fairly … TA does not support any view that contravenes these basic human rights.”

Source: AP

Served-up

“Unmatched,” a new documentary on ESPN, examines the off-court friendship and on-court rivalry between tennis champs Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. They played one another more than 80 times – often for the big prizes on grass or clay. The media fed on the competitive nature of their game and helped manufacture their public images – America’s blonde sweetheart vs. Czechoslovakia’s bratty defector.

The hour-long film offers a more sophisticated and sensitive profile of the true pals, along with a lot of chuckles. Of the first time she saw the 16-year-old Navratilova, Evert says, “I remember that she was fat. She was very emotional on the court, whining if she didn’t feel she was playing well. But I remember thinking, if she loses weight, we’re all in trouble.”

She lost weight.