John McEnroe beat up the “offensive and homophobic” views of his tennis mate Margaret Court on Monday as the Australian Open prepared for the 50th anniversary of its Grand Slam in the calendar year.
The American said Court, 77, was Australia’s “crazy aunt” tennis and the golden anniversary of her 1970s Grand Slam was a “nightmare” for the government.
“There is only one thing that is longer than Margaret Court’s list of successes: it is her list of offensive and homophobic statements,” McEnroe said in a full-length video for Eurosport.
“Margaret Court is actually a ventriloquist who uses the Bible as a dummy to say what she wants,” added the seven-time Grand Slam winner.
Court will be honored with a ceremony on Monday at the Australian Open in Melbourne Park, where the second largest stadium bears its name.
She has won 24 Grand Slam titles, a record for both men and women, and is one of only five players to have defeated all four majors in the same year.
However, Tennis Australia has taken an ambiguous stance after agreeing to mark the anniversary, but stressed that it “does not match Court’s personal views, which have humiliated and hurt many in our community over several years”.
Court, now a pastor of the Church and based in Perth, Western Australia, has long attracted controversy over her views on race and homosexuality.
The Australian once praised South Africa’s apartheid system, saying “tennis is full of lesbians” and described transgender children as “the work of the devil”.
WTA founder Billie Jean King is a high-profile figure calling for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed Melbourne Park, and American legend Martina Navratilova is also a frequent critic.
The court said last week that she was “persecuted” because of her belief and that many people have expressed her support.
“I teach what the Bible says about things and you get persecuted for it,” she told ABC Radio.
“But I still believe that everything I did in tennis for my nation 50 years ago shouldn’t come in.”
Glam Slam, one of the world’s largest LGBTQI + tennis tournaments, will be held in Melbourne Park this week. This year, gender-neutral toilets will be unveiled in the Rod Laver Arena, the center court.
McEnroe said he hoped Serena Williams, who has 23 Grand Slam titles, would soon surpass Court’s 24 record.
“Serena, do me a favor, get two more Grand Slams this year and turn 25 so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past where both belong,” he said.