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Billie Jean King backs calls to rename Margaret Court Arena

Michael Dodge/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- During a news conference on Friday, tennis legend Billie Jean King said she believes Margaret Court Arena at the Australian Open should be renamed due to Court's comments about the LGBT community.

Court, who is from Australia, is now a Christian pastor and has been an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage.

King, who is gay, was originally a proponent of having the arena named after Court in 2003 in recognition of the 24-time Grand Slam winner, but that changed after Court's comments.

"I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community -- I'm a gay woman -- about the LBGTIQ community," King said at news conference Friday. "That really went deep in my heart and soul.

King is being honored at the Australian Open this year, on the 50th year of her first win at the Grand Slam. She is being recognized as the Australian Open Woman of the Year.

King did not say players should boycott the Arena at the Open, but she added, "If I were playing today, I would not play on it." 

King is not the only former women's tennis player that is calling for a name change.

Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam winner, wrote an open letter last year recommending that tennis officials rename the court for Evonne Goolagon Cawley, another Australian tennis great.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said that while there's an "ongoing conversation", there is no formal process about changing the name of the court.

Last year Court's negative comments about gay people in Australia were heavily criticized. The country voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in 2017.

Court is a regular attendee at the event, but she is not attending this year's Open, which starts on Monday.

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