Margaret Court reportedly received Australia’s highest civilian honour because it was believed she deserved the same recognition as the country’s greatest ever male tennis player.
Rod Laver was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia in 2016 and the media reported the same honour will be bestowed upon Court, who has previously caused controversy for spouting her views on homosexuality.
Members of the Council for the Order of Australia told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald that despite expecting backlash, Court’s achievements in tennis warranted her to receive the same recognition as Laver, and her controversial views shouldn’t exclude her from that.
Court holds the all-time record for most grand slam singles titles with 24 while Laver won 11 majors, including all four in a calendar year twice – the only player to achieve such a feat.
Criticism ensued after it was announced Court would be receiving the honour, with the former athlete hitting back saying it “was a long time coming”.
“I wasn’t one who looked for it, I didn’t know I was getting it, I was very honoured when I was told I was,” she told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, speaking after receiving her honour on Australia Day.
“No (I won’t give it back), because I loved representing my nation. When I got my AO it was for my community outreach area, where we put out 75 tonnes of food a week.
“This was for my tennis and I think it was a long time coming and I’m very honoured … We did nothing but play for our nation.”
Court also defended her views, saying she has been misrepresented in the media.
“I was used as a high profile person to get some opinions and views across — but I have nothing against homosexual people or transgender people,” she said.
“I’ve always said what the bible says. And I don’t hate anybody. I love people. And I love gay people and I love transgender people.”
Court has become a divisive figure for her outspoken views on homosexuality, conversion therapy, same-sex marriage and transgender people.
This article originally appeared on Over60.