Tennis great Martina Navratilova has apologised for her involvement in an on-court protest against grand slam record-holder Margaret Court – but says she stands by her statement.
“I got in trouble. I am sorry I broke protocol. I had no idea there was this kind of protocol,” Navratilova told the Tennis Channel on Wednesday.
“Had I known, I would have done it differently but I would still have tried to make my statement, which is basically: You name buildings after not what people just did on the court but also off the court, the whole body of work.”
Navratilova earned the ire of Tennis Australia on Tuesday after she and fellow legend John McEnroe unfurled a banner at Melbourne Park on Tuesday showing their support for renaming Margaret Court Arena after indigenous champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
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Just a day earlier, Navratilova – who has long called for the controversial grand slam legend’s name to be dropped from the arena – wrote an open letter on Tennis.com, calling for Court’s name to be removed because of her divisive views about the LGBTIQ community.
“It’s hateful and hurtful speech and it’s injurious to countless vulnerable people,” Navratilova wrote of Court’s outspoken views.
Tuesday’s display of on-court defiance came after Navratilova, who had just completed a legends’ exhibition match at the Australian Open, invited McEnroe – another of Court’s public critics – onto the court. The pair held up their banner before Navratilova headed for the umpire’s microphone to make a comment – but was thwarted when the sound was cut by officials.
The move earned them a public rebuke from Tennis Australia on Tuesday night.
“We embrace diversity, inclusion and the right for people to have a view, as well as their right to voice that view,” Tennis Australia said.
“But the Australian Open has regulations and protocols with respect to how any fan, player or guest can use our facility, the event and the global stage it provides.
“This is to ensure the integrity of our event.
“Two high-profile guests have breached these protocols and we are working through this with them.”
On Wednesday, Navratilova emphasised she stood by her beliefs about Court, but regretted breaking Tennis Australia’s protocol.
“I said my piece. You can read my whole statement. I stand by that,” she said.
“But I do apologise about breaking protocol. I did not mean to do that.”
Court is being honoured at this year’s Open as it is the 50th anniversary of her calendar-year grand slam.