Billie Jean King hits out at Margaret Court comments

Openly gay tennis champion Billie Jean King has spoken out against Margaret Court for not supporting the LGBT community in .

At the Toronto Film Festival for the premiere of Battle of the Sexes – the film about the famous 1973 tennis match between King (Emma Stone) and former men’s champ Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) – the 73-year-old marriage equality advocate admitted she was disappointed with Court’s recent comments.

“Margaret and I always sat together at lunch when we were at the same events but we got along in a very superficial way,” she says.

“I would love to talk to Margaret, and I think probably now I need to talk to her about what she’s saying. But she’s a Pentecostal minister with her own congregation so I don’t think it will help much or that she will change or adapt in any way.”

Billie Jean King and Emma Stone at the US Open. Photo: ADAM HUNGER

Formerly the No. 1 player in the world with 39 grand slam titles, King also admits she has mixed feelings about her colleague’s name remaining on Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena.

“It’s a shame because I really promoted getting that court named after her and I wanted her and Rod Laver to have the same court,” she recalls.

“The Aussies were furious at me for even bringing it up but I strongly felt she deserved it because she got 64 grand slams which is more than anybody else to this day. Now I have questions about it, because of how she’s come out against the LBGT community and against marriage equality.”

“Everyone has a right to state their opinion,” King adds, “but I also grew up as a Christian and I was a very religious young girl and always remember reading ‘judge not that ye be judged’ – that one always jumped off the page for me. Sadly, you can take any page in the Bible and use it your own way and she takes some other parts. If Jesus Christ was here, I think he’d agree that kindness and generosity and difference of opinion is OK.”

The film takes place in the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women’s movement, when more than 90 million viewers watched Billie Jean King face off against Bobby Riggs in the match billed as the ‘Battle of the Sexes’, one of the most watched televised sports events of all time. King talks excitedly about getting to know Oscar-winning La La Land star Emma Stone, who plays her in the film.

“We went to the US Open together last Saturday and had a great day so we are still hanging out,” she says.

“It’s a 23,000-people stadium and she had to go out and speak and when she walked through the tunnel and saw it, she was blown away realising how many people watched us play. She said she’d never had that many people watch her in one place, not even the theatre, so she’s very sweet and really special.”

Battle of the Sexes opens in cinemas on September 28.

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