Martina Navratilova has apologised for breaking Australian Open protocol by staging a protest calling for the name of Margaret Court Arena to be changed.
After playing in a legends’ match on Tuesday, Navratilova climbed into the umpire’s chair and began to speak about the issue.
The TV feed was abruptly cut but Navratilova and John McEnroe then paraded a banner made by her reading ‘Evonne Goolagong Arena’, the name they would like the stadium to adopt.
Court has been widely criticised for her very public opposition to gay marriage and her inflammatory statements on LGBTIQ issues, while Goolagong is a seven-time former grand slam singles champion and a trailblazer for Aboriginal tennis.
Navratilova’s actions were met with a stern rebuke from Australian Open organisers, who said in a statement: “We embrace diversity, inclusion and the right for people to have a view, as well as their right to voice that view.
“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.”
Speaking on Tennis Channel, for whom she is working during the tournament, Navratilova said: “I got in trouble.
“I am sorry I broke protocol, I had no idea there was this kind of protocol. Had I known I would have done it differently.
“But I would still have tried and made 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.
“I said my piece. You can read my whole statement, I stand by that, but I do apologise for breaking protocol. I did not mean to do that.”
McEnroe also apologised for his part in the protest in a statement read out by employer ESPN, saying: “Admittedly I was never one to study the rule book carefully or, for that matter, even at times abide by the rules.
“In this case, I was not aware of the Tennis Australia rules and protocol for issuing credentials. For that, I apologise to Tennis Australia and recognise and appreciate the great job they have done to make the Australian Open a great event for the fans, players and myself.”
Court was recognised with a short ceremony on Rod Laver Arena on Monday to mark the 50th anniversary of her calendar Grand Slam.
It went off without incident bar the waving of a handful of rainbow flags. Court was presented with a replica trophy by Laver but was not given a microphone to address the crowd herself.