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Billie Jean King ‘disappointed’ in Margaret Court, but doesn’t want her name removed from Australia stadium

Former tennis greats Australia's Margaret Court, left, and

Former tennis greats Australia's Margaret Court, left, and Billie Jean King of the US receive applause as they take their seats in the Royal Box during day six of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Saturday, July 2, 2016. Credit: AP / Tim Ireland

Billie Jean King said Thursday that while Margaret Court’s views on gays, gender identity and same-sex marriage are “hurtful,” she does not support erasing Court’s name from one of the stadiums used for the Australian Open.

“I’m still digesting a lot,” King said of the latest controversial comments from Court, a pastor in Perth, Australia, which prompted some players to call for Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne to be stripped of her name.

“I still want her to have her name on the court at this point, but I’m disappointed,” said King, 73, a contemporary of Court, 74. “Because of her tennis, she deserves it . . . I’ve stood up for her before. So I separate those things.

“I think it’s really important to always have acts of kindness, love over hate, than to make judgments on others. Do I agree with her? Absolutely not. I’m gay and I think she’s been hurtful to our community and doesn’t really understand us as humans first.

“But you know what? Judge not that ye be not judged; that’s how I live my life.”

The latest storm surrounding Court, whose 24 Grand Slam singles titles and 64 overall are records, began last month with a letter to an Australian newspaper criticizing the airline Qantas for its support of same-sex marriage.

In a subsequent interview with a Christian radio stadium, she criticized the notion of teaching children about gender fluidity, saying, “You can think, ‘Oh, I’m a boy,’ and it will affect your emotions and feelings and everything else. So, that’s all the devil.

“That’s what Hitler did and that’s what Communism did, got the mind of the children. It’s a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world, to get the minds of the children.”

King, speaking after a news conference to preview the New York Empire’s World Team Tennis season, said, “She’s always been religious. I was very religious when I was younger. I think she probably liked me a lot better then. But I don’t like it when she runs down my community, the LGBTQI community. I don’t like any community to be run down. So it hurt my feelings. Yeah, I don’t like it.”

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