With the tennis season in full flow, the French Open, which concluded this weekend with Women’s and Men’s finals matches on Saturday and Sunday, threw up a few issues which highlight some of the ongoing issues with gender and sexuality in sport.
Anyone following the action would have been hard pressed to miss the long series of news articles about the controversy surrounding Margaret Court, a legendary tennis player and awful human being. Having risen to hero status in the sport, she has spent much of the rest of her life proclaiming hatred and intolerance under the guise of faith, and the response has been one of shame and outrage.
Many prominent figures, including another hugely important player of the history of the sport, Martina Navratilova, have called for an Arena at the Australian Open to be renamed, as it currently honours Court despite her prominent views. Navratilova herself is a vocal supporter of LGBT+ rights, and has often stood up for other lesbians in tennis, claiming the sport has many such people in its ranks.
A few individuals have questioned the relevance of this cause, as the player is being honoured for her sporting achievements rather than her current pursuits. The problem is that any such venue reflects the values and legacy of a society, and promoting an individual who preaches hatred and oppression can only shame our liberal society.
The venue is also used for concerts and events, which the Icelandic band Sigur Ros have used as a platform to support equality in marriage. Having such a venue named after someone with such radical views is unpopular with the people of Melbourne, and sets a bad example for generations to come.
In more heartening news, the French Open organisers have responded firmly and swiftly to an incident involving French player Maxime Hamou, who has been banned for an outrageous and completely unprofessional mistreatment of a female reporter. While his actions are reprehensible, the swiftness of the disciplinary action demonstrates that at least the French Open take inappropriate actions seriously and will punish them, in order to set an example of what is appropriate for sports professionals to say and do in their role as public figures.