Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe apologise after protest against anti-LGBT Margaret Court at Australian Open

Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe sorry for protest at Margaret Court Arena

Tennis legends Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe have apologised for staging a public protest at the Australian Open against Margaret Court.

On Tuesday, the two players opted to protest during a legends match at the Margaret Court Arena, which is named for the notoriously anti-LGBT tennis star, who has likened gay people to Hitler and claimed lesbian tennis players “recruit” younger athletes.

The two players carried a rainbow-coloured banner bearing the slogan “Evonne Goolagong Arena” in reference to the campaign for the arena to be renamed in honour of Goolagong, another female Australian tennis pro.

Navratilova had attempted to make a speech from the umpire’s chair after displaying the sign with McEnroe, but the microphone and TV feed were cut off.

Martina Navratilova sorry for protest at Margaret Court Arena

The two players have now apologised to Tennis Australia for the protest.

Navratilova told The Tennis Channel: “I got in trouble. I am sorry I broke protocol. 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.”

McEnroe added: “Admittedly I was never one to study the rule book carefully or for that matter, even at times abide by the rules.

“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.”

John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova issued an apology

John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova issued an apology (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Tennis Australia said after the protest: “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.”

Awkward ceremony honours achievement of anti-LGBT star

The Melbourne tournament has faced controversy over the decision to honour the 50th anniversary of the Australian player’s landmark quadruple Grand Slam victory.

During a muted ceremony on Monday, Court was presented with a trophy by another former tennis pro, Rod Laver.

However, Australia’s 2018 Homophobe of the Year was not permitted to address the crowd live, with a video tribute playing instead.

Court did not receive a standing ovation and was met by scattered boos from the crowd, while one onlooker pointedly waved a rainbow Australian flag.