Former Australian world number one tennis player, Evonne Goolagong Cawley AO, MBE, has just had a sports arena named after her – at least in the virtual world – as Ms Goolagong’s name has just replaced Margaret Court’s in the popular online mapping service, Google Maps.
This development is the latest twist in the scandal involving tennis legend Margaret Court, who has publicly come under fire after voicing her opposition to same-sex marriage. In the past, Ms Court had also voiced comments that have been deemed deeply racist, and are now being resurfaced.
Ms Court’s comments, which have been labelled as homophobic, have been met with a flurry of criticism, including an open letter penned by former tennis star, Martina Navratilova, published on Fairfax Media.
In the letter, Ms Navratilova implies that athletes are not just worthy of the honour of having places named after them for their contribution to their sport, but also their legacy to society.
“Sporting venues named for athletes, or any place, really, named for whoever, are so named for one reason. That reason is their whole body of work. In other words, it is not just for what this person did on the field, on the court, in politics, arts or science, for instance, but also for who they are as human beings,” the letter says.
Martina Navratilova’s letter not just references Ms Court’s 'homophobic' comments, it also mentions 'racist' comments she’s made in the past.
“What I did not know about until now, were the unabashed racist statements she made in the '70s about apartheid in South Africa. Saying that South Africa dealt with the "situation" (meaning people of colour) much better than anywhere else in the world, particularly the US: what exactly did she mean by that?,” Ms Navratilova questions.
“It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion,” she wrote.
The letter’s conclusion has been interpreted as a call to action.
“I think the Evonne Goolagong Arena has a great ring to it. Now there is a person we can all celebrate. On every level,” Navratilova wrote.
Navratilova’s letter may have triggered additional support for the ‘Rename the Margaret Court Arena the Evonne Goolagong Arena’ petition on change.org, which at the time of writing has gathered over 9,500 supporters, and it’s just a few hundred signatures shy of its 10,000 goal.
The petition reads:
“We think it is unsuitable for your arena to continue to be named in honour of someone who has been consistently outspoken about her opposition to equality, diversity and inclusion.
Evonne Goolagong, who was Australian of the year in 1971, is also a great Australian tennis champion. She has a reputation for generosity and inclusiveness. She is a far more suitable candidate for the official name of your stadium.
Please rename the Margaret Court Arena, the Evonne Goolagong Arena.”
Despite many twitter users having attributed the arena name change to Google Maps, a Google spokesperson told the ABC, "a wide range of sources, including third-party providers, public sources, and user contributions" helped make their maps all-encompassing, but there was a trade-off.
"We recognise that there may be occasional inaccuracies that could arise from any of those sources," the spokesperson said.
NITV News has reached out to Google for comment and is awaiting a response.