Women watching tennis in wedding dresses causes furor
TV footage of two women in wedding dresses sitting side by side in Margaret Court Arena has caused quite an episode at the Australian Open.
Many Australian viewers on Friday night took to social media to applaud the display, interpreting their presence as a cunning takedown of Aussie tennis legend Court, who famously campaigned against the same-sex marriage postal vote and eventual marriage equality legislation change.
However, it emerged soon after during Nine's coverage of Alex de Minaur's clash with Rafael Nadal that the two women were planted in the crowd in their wedding dresses as part of a Channel 9 promotion for upcoming series 'Married At First Sight'.
Two women in wedding dresses sitting together in Margaret Court Arena, which bears the name of one of the loudest and most vitriolic voices on the losing side of Australia's gay marriage debate. #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/i7oPQy9MAe— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 18, 2019
A Channel 9 spokesman has since released a statement to confirm the entire episode of having two brides sit side by side inside Court's stadium was all a misunderstanding and that the promotion did not seek to make any form of political statement.
The two brides were spotted throughout various Melbourne Park venues during the Friday night session at the Australian Open - including Margaret Court Arena.
Tennis fans on social media earlier in the night quickly spread the Channel 9 footage of the two women, applauding them as social activists throwing shade at the Aussie tennis icon.
Channel 9 has since shut that theory down.
"To promote the upcoming series of Married at First Sight we had two promotional models dressed as brides at tonight's Australian Open, who were moved to various parts of the Melbourne Park precinct," a Channel 9 spokesman said in a statement.
"Their seating at Margaret Court Arena was in no way meant to be interpreted as a political statement."
Speculation surrounding the identities and the motives of the two young women sporting the pearly white threads in the stands briefly threatened to overshadow the action on court on Friday night.
However, many were left deflated by the realisation that the whole scene was simply a misfiring TV promotion.
Court's outspoken views on marriage equality continue to be one of the most prickly issues at the Open following calls from legends, including Martina Navratilova, for the iconic Melbourne Park stadium to be re-named.
Court has for the second year stayed away from the Open, but said in an interview last week that she hopes the Australian public accepts the arena being named in her honour and continue to remember her legendary achievements on the court, including 24 grand slams.
The honour awarded to Court remains an issue in the spotlight, especially while Aussie star Ash Barty remains so impacted by the discussion.
Barty is good friends with Aussie great Casey Dellacqua, who revealed she was deeply hurt by Court's outspoken views towards marriage equality and gay players on the WTA Tour.
Dellacqua - who has two children in an openly gay relationship, has previously rejected suggestions for players to boycott the No. 2 Australian Open venue to protest Court's views.
While Dellacqua has been reticent to criticise the Aussie legend, Navratilova has been open with her criticism recently.
In a letter, published by Fairfax Media, tennis royalty Martina Navratilova said while Court was entitled to free speech that didn't mean her words were free of consequence.
She also said Court's views on linking the LGBTI community to Nazism were "sick and dangerous."
"It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights (note to Court: we are human beings, too). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere," Navratilova wrote.