Roy Exum: A Persecuted Champion

Wednesday, January 22, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Australia’s Margaret Court, who has won more major tennis championships than any other woman who ever lived, is being openly defiled and publicly persecuted by those who govern the sport she cherishes most this week. As a terribly-misguided governing body, Tennis Australia, celebrates the 50th anniversary of her magnificent Grand Slam, this collection of down-under kooks has announced they will recognize the feat but not so much Margaret herself. Of course that is impossible … really ... but why? Margaret Court is a devout Christian who, as a senior Pentecostal minister at the huge Victory Life Centre in Perth, is staunch in her stand, “Just read the first two chapters of Genesis (in the Bible); that’s all I say.

Male and female.” 

Fifty years ago the then-dazzling Court indelibly stamped her name on tennis and the world itself. The Australian became the second woman to win the Grand Slam in what is called “the Open era,” which is to win the Australian Open, the U.S. Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon in the same calendar year. It is the Holy Grail of tennis and Margaret’s run was hardly a fluke – all told she won 24 majors back then. So maybe it is ironic that this week Serena Williams, with 23 majors, could tie the record that has stood for a half-century, this with Margaret herself watching from the stands in Melbourne’s aptly-named Margaret Court Arena.

We all agree that records are meant to be broken but the huge majority of us is equal in the resolve that no human should be persecuted for whatever their beliefs. Margaret, who is now 77, has been outspoken on same-sex marriage and transgender issues from the very start. Such notables as openly-gay Martina Navratilova have called Court’s views “pathetic” and admonished Court for “hiding behind her Bible.” Navratilova is considered by many as the best female tennis player of all time and won 18 majors (yes, six less than Court, whose reign didn’t have worldwide TV or the Internet.

Court has called trans women “problematic” – as evidenced by several more states are introducing legislation this week that will ban “biological males” from female competition. Five states, including Tennessee, have already done so after Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi pushed an opposite view through the U.S. Congress. In Alabama the Gender is Real Legislation (GIRL) is ready for vote and, as state bills flourish, Pelosi’s federal bill is expected to die quickly in the Senate, not because of homophobic claims but because there is overwhelming and inclusive evidence male athletes are so different from females it is impossible to make both athletically the same. “I wish the press would stick to my tennis,” Court said in a radio interview. “I’ve had so many people touch me on the shoulder and say ‘thank you for being my voice.’ I haven’t had anyone say ‘I hate you.’ I teach what the Bible says and get persecuted for it.”

While some players are adamant in their dislike for the Australian legend, British player Johanna Konta told the Washington Post, “I think it’s unfortunate that this whole thing has even occurred, because it does overshadow why her name is on the court. It’s not because of her beliefs; it’s because of her achievements in the sport. It’s unfortunate it’s kind of meshed together when they’re actually quite separate.”

Speaking in a newspaper interview, Court explained the whole uproar is “because we are living in a season … even that LGBT and the schools — it’s of the devil, it’s not of God … 

“It’s so wrong at that age because a lot of things are planted in this thought realm at that age. And they start to question, ‘What am I?’ And if you are a Christian … you believe the word of God. This is our TV Guide to life. … And you know with that LGBT, they’ll wish they never put the ‘T’ on the end of it because, particularly in women’s sports, they’re going to have so many problems. And you have got young people taking hormones and having changes, by the time they are 17 they are thinking, ‘Now I’m a boy and really I was a girl.’ Because, you know what? God’s made us that way.”

Don’t try to explain that to the Tennis Australia leaders. In a thinly guised ‘open letter’ last November, it unflinchingly stated, there was “an important distinction” between “recognizing champions and celebrating heroes.” It added, “Naturally, we will be recognizing Margaret and her incredible tennis record, and, contrary to many reports, there is no plan to ‘rewrite history.’ However, the philosophy and culture of our sport goes deeper than winning and setting records. We seek to foster a sport that is inclusive and welcoming of everyone. We all bear some responsibility for creating a safe and inclusive society. As a sport, tennis is unwavering in playing our part.”

In Australia it is estimated that 3.1 to 3.7 percent of the population is homosexual, but what percentage is transgender is unknown. Of course, hetero Australians tend to side with Rev. Court and Australian Open officials are aware of the national backlash, especially when it was announced that Court – the No. 1 ‘open era’ champion of all time -- would not be allowed to take part in the trophy presentation as she had often done in the past.

An updated press release stated, “Tennis Australia respects Court’s unmatched tennis career and welcomes her to the Australian Open, particularly in this milestone anniversary year.

“As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Court’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years. They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion. Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.”

At the start of this week’s Australian Open, gender-neutral restrooms were introduced at the Australian Open with signage that read, “Please use the toilet that is most comfortable for you. Anyone can use these toilets. Regardless of gender or expression.”

royexum@aol.com

 


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