Tennis legend Billie Jean King has recently added her voice to calls to change the name of Margaret Court Arena.
It’s a growing sentiment that threatens to overshadow this year’s Australian Open. However, advocates for the change seem oblivious to the slippery slope it would place us on.
To begin with, such a change would significantly impinge on the Australian tradition of forgiving sportspeople no matter what they do or say.
What next? Not offering AFL players jobs at their former clubs, just because they went to jail for stalking and repeatedly breaching a restraining order against an ex-partner?
What a dangerous path we tentatively step on.
Furthermore, beyond sportspeople, such a move would be a blow to everyone’s right to hold horrible, damaging views.
It’s all part of a sustained attack on free speech in this country.
As I learnt in school, the right to free speech is enshrined in the Australian Bill of Rights.
If Margaret’s name is removed from this stadium, her voice would be almost completely silenced, limited to just every single media outlet in the country.
And what are these ‘extreme views’ Margaret has expressed anyway?
Her critics cite when she once got up at a prayer breakfast at Parliament House and yelled, ‘Homosexuality is an abomination to the Lord! Abortion is an abomination to the Lord!’ but who hasn’t done that?
People in glass houses is all I’m saying.
I guess she did say tennis is full of lesbians and that LGBT tendencies in young people were ‘all the devil’.
I admit that’s a bit hard to justify that stuff, but it probably made more sense in context.
There was that time she praised South Africa’s apartheid regime saying, “South Africans have this thing better organised than any other country, particularly America.”
I’ll admit, ‘this thing’ is a bit ominous there. It sounds a bit like she’s referring to having Africans in your country is a problem you have to manage. Luckily, that sort of misinformed public debate about African people would never occur here in Australia.
I will concede it is a bit hard to justify naming something after someone who supported apartheid.
Still, we have to weigh that up against all those times she hit a ball over a net better than anyone else.
Surely, with all those victories, we can agree to turn a blind eye to all that pro-apartheid, ‘LGBT tendencies are the devil's work’ stuff.
The key question in all of this, is, do we really want to end up in a country where people who repeatedly say racist and homophobic things can no longer have public places named after them?
Is this the type of society we want? Some nightmarish nanny state where everyone gets a fair go regardless of their race or sexuality?
Buy Titus' A Thoroughly Unhelpful History of Australian Sport through titusoreily.com and get it signed.