Tennis great Margaret Court has hit back at critics following unconfirmed leaks about forthcoming Australia Day honours.
Reports that controversial tennis icon Margaret Court will be recognised with the nation’s highest honour on Australia Day sparked a wave of furious backlash this week.
Claims emerged on social media that Court will be appointed the Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AC) for her sporting success.
The names of those receiving Australia Day honours are not meant to be released until 10pm on Monday.
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Court has become a divisive figure for her outspoken views on homosexuality, conversion therapy, same-sex marriage and transgender people.
There have been repeated calls for Tennis Australia to distance itself from her, along with a campaign to rename Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park.
“All I know is over the last few years, I’ve never had anybody out in the community come to me and say, ‘We don’t like you’, or, ‘We don’t like your beliefs’. I’ve had thousands come to me and tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘Thank you, we really appreciate you,’” Court said.
The 24-time grand slam champion also claimed she has been unfairly bullied over her beliefs, calling on her outspoken critics to stop.
“Over the years, I’ve taken a lot, and I think I’ve been bullied in one way, and I think, you know, it’s time to stop,” Court said.
“Always remember I’m a minister of the gospel and have been for the last 30 years, I always say what the Bible says.
“I love people, people come in from all backgrounds, I’m there to help, I’m not there to put people down in that way but I’ll always say what the Bible says.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he was “quite sick” of talking about Court every summer, and posted a scathing response to her potential accolade on social media.
“I don’t want to give this person’s disgraceful, bigoted views any oxygen,” Andrews tweeted.
“But when others insist on rewarding them with this country’s highest honour – I think it’s worth saying again.
“Grand Slam wins don’t give you some right to spew hatred and create division. Nothing does.”
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Opposition leader Anthony Albanese posted: “Margaret Court has already been honoured for her tennis prowess. She’s already an Officer of the Order of Australia. I think it’s clear for everyone to see that making her a Companion of the Order of Australia has nothing to do with tennis.”
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to comment on the situation when asked about the backlash during a press conference on Friday.
“I can’t comment on an award that’s done through an independent process that hasn’t been announced or I have no official knowledge of,” Morrison said.
“This is a completely independent set of processes. It is an announcement that will be announced on that day. It is a system that recognises the full spectrum of individuals across this country.”