It’s looking like a Margaret Court Christmas … again

Every year, as Christmas approaches, most of us are faced with the prospect of sharing the turkey and the table with a relative who’s a pain to be around: an uncle who tells off-colour jokes, a brother-in-law who drones on about how much money he’s making in his used car business and why people can’t just get a job, and an aunty who’s really a bit racist.

Margaret Court in 1969, left, and in recent times.Credit:Press Association/Getty

There’s no point in arguing with this person, because they don’t do self-doubt. It’s all a bit awkward, really, and the best we polite types can manage is to mask our discomfort with an eye-roll when the person isn’t looking and an inward groan at their worst excesses, and try not to let them blow up Christmas. They are, after all, part of the family.

For Tennis Australia, Christmas comes in January with the Australian Open, and the awkward aunt of late has been Margaret Court – once the best female tennis player in the world, now a born-again Christian with outdated views on marriage equality and sexuality that she doesn’t mind broadcasting.



Court’s belief that marriage can only happen between a man and a woman might be rooted in her interpretation of the bible, but it’s obviously out of step with mainstream feelings (and the law) in Australia.

Along with her famous contention that “tennis is full of lesbians”, with its undertones of homophobia, it’s offensive and hurtful to many people. It’s more than a little uncomfortable, but it isn’t going to change the law. It isn’t even going to change anyone’s mind. Court is preaching to the choir, and the choir isn’t that big.

Every year, when tennis Christmas comes, the Court controversy starts up again: we should take her name of the stadium, kick her out of the tennis family, block her on Twitter and cancel her on Facebook.

Most of us feel the impulse to shut down people we find offensive at some time. We can argue with Margaret Court’s views, but we can’t Photoshop her out of the family album with the sewing scissors. That’s like pretending that a whole lot of bad stuff never happened.

If Margaret Court Arena is a monument to her great days as a tennis player, it is also now, thanks to the Reverend Margaret Court, a reminder of the homophobia that has made so many people suffer – and still does.

I bet Tennis Australia wishes they could just uninvite her this January, but it isn’t that easy. She’s a member of the tennis family, and you have to have the family over for Christmas. They probably just have to roll their eyes and groan inwardly as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of Margaret Court’s grand slam, and hope it doesn’t blow up Christmas. But there will be no need for a 60th, and she won’t be around for the centenary.

Matt Holden is a Melbourne writer.

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