Former world tennis No.1 Margaret Court is set to cut the ribbon on a new $4 million tennis centre in Busselton next week — but the announcement of her visit hasn’t gone down well with all sections of the community.
Mrs Court’s divisive comments while opposing same-sex marriage during the 2017 survey on the issue have raised many eyebrows, with Busselton locals this week arguing they wanted someone with less polarising views to help them celebrate the opening of the facilities.
Busselton Tennis Club president Barry House brushed off concerns and said the event was purely about launching the “best regional tennis centre in WA” which had been five years in the making.
“We invited an Australian and world tennis icon to open the centre — Margaret Court still holds the world record for the most gram slam wins in the history of tennis, either male or female,” he said.
“She won 62 grand slams, 24 as a singles player. If Rod Laver, Roger Federer or Ash Barty lived in WA, and were available, we would love for them to be here as well.
“Thankfully we live in a tolerant society which values and protects free speech and people’s right to different opinions.”
“This event is about the tennis facility and the future of our club.”
Social media backlash over the plans to have Mrs Court open the centre was swift as news of her visit got out.
“I’ve no idea why they’d want to make the event so controversial by inviting a controversial person,” wrote Harri Wren.
“Just not needed.”
Pam Smith said she was “astounded and quite disappointed”.
“I wouldn’t attend nor go to the facility ever,” she wrote. “If they think it’s appropriate having someone with these antiquated views opening such a facility in this day and age.
“I am astounded and quite disappointed.”
But as quickly as opposition against the outspoken tennis legend mounted, many were quick to defend her.
Paul Gardiner took to Facebook to describe her appearance at the opening event a “great coup for Busselton”.
Bob Muirson said Mrs Court was a great champion of the game.
“It is for this reason, she is opening the tennis club,” he wrote. “There are lots of people, who have contrary views, but we need to rise above our own opinions & (sic) accept that many, will not share them.”
Tracey Holt took a more moderate stance.
“Appreciate her achievements,” she wrote. “But I hope she doesn’t make a platform for her personal beliefs. Not the place.”
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