Tennis’ all-time great Margaret Court will be recognised for her contribution to the sport in this year’s Australia Day honours list.
The Nine newspapers are reporting Court will be made a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AC) on Tuesday.
Court, who has won more grand slams than any other player in history, is currently a pastor at Perth’s Victory Life Centre, which she founded in 1991.
She found herself in hot water back in 2017 at the height of debate over legalising same-sex marriage in Australia. Court wrote an open letter defending her belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, sparking calls for Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena to be renamed. Further comments Court made suggesting that the devil was working in the minds of children wrestling with gender dysphoria were also slammed in the media.
These days, calls for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed seem to come around annually, in the lead up to the Australian Open tennis tournament. In 2020, Tennis Australia recognised the 50th anniversary of Court winning all four major tournament titles – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – in 1970, much to the chagrin of another tennis great – John McEnroe. McEnroe labelled Court “tennis’ crazy aunt” and called for Serena Williams – who currently trails Court’s grand slam record – to “Do me a favour. Get two more grand slams this year and get to 25 so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past where they both belong.”
A year later, the record still remains with Court.
In October 2020, Court was in the media again, after her church was denied funding for a community food program because of its stance against homosexuality.
Court has spent the last 30 years growing Victory Life Centre, a large Pentecostal church with thriving ministry and outreach programmes.
Despite her controversial views, Court will receive an AC for her service as a player and as a mentor to young sportspeople. Recommendations for the Australia Day honours are given to the Governor General by the Council of the Order of Australia, after recipients are nominated by others in the community.
UPDATE: responding to criticism of her views by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Margaret Court said today her views were based on her religious beliefs, the ABC reports, and it was important for freedom of speech that she could share them.
“I am a minister of the Gospel, I have been a pastor for 30 years,” she said.
“I teach the bible, what God says in the Bible and I think that is my right and my privilege to be able to bring that forth.
“I’m not going to change my opinions and views, and I think it’s very important for freedom of speech that we can say our beliefs. But she also said it was time for people to “move on”.
“I think it’s very sad people hold on to that and still want to bully, and I think it’s time to move on,” she said.