In 2014, it was Shamil Tarpsichev, the President of the Russian Tennis Federation , who set the blogosphere afire with his ill-advised comments about the Williams’ gender on national television.
This time, it’s Raymond Moore, the Indian Wells tournament director who put his foot into his mouth when he remarked thus:
“In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride on the coat tails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky. If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”
The South African is a former tennis player and helped establish the joint ATP-WTA tourney.
Moore compounded his folly further by speculating on the future of women’s tennis without Maria Sharapova.
He named Garbine Muguraza and Genie Bouchard as being both “physically attractive and competitively attractive” and that they “can assume the mantle of leadership once Serena decides to stop.”
Moore later apologised but not before a flurry of rejoinders and calls for his resignation from players, commentators and fans alike.
While these are the sort of comments that one can expect from arm-chair fans and critics of the game in the comfort of their homes , or even spectators in sports bars after the influence of a few drinks in rowdy company, it’s not becoming from the CEO of the tournament. He risks alienating women players and their fans.
Serena Williams responded:
“I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that. I think Venus, myself, a number of players — if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister — I couldn’t even bring up that number. So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement.
I think there is a lot of women out there who are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways.
There’s only one way to interpret that. ‘Get on your knees,’ which is offensive enough, and ‘thank a man’? We, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”
Patrick McEnroe was among those calling for Moore’s sacking.
Novak Djokovic, however, was his incorrigible self.
“I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the, you know, reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.
Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve. I think as long as it’s like that and there is data and stats available and information, upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed.
Knowing what they have to go through with their bodies — and their bodies are much different than men’s bodies — they have to go through a lot of different things that we don’t have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff — we don’t need to go into details. Ladies know what I’m talking about. Really, great admiration and respect for them to be able to fight on such a high level.”
Moore may have apologised and the brouhaha over his remarks will probably die down in a week or so. The average fan’s memory is short-lived.
The gender divide persists.
There exists parity in earnings between men and women at the Grand Slams and other joint tournaments like Indian Wells. Scoffers and skeptics may enquire whether women shouldn’t play five sets as well at the Slams.
Also, shouldn’t, as Djokovic points out, there be attempts to make the women’s game more interesting to the spectators? How many fans can testify to finding women’s matches as evenly matched as men’s?
Also, at the risk of sounding sexist, why shouldn’t the attractiveness of women players be a reason for drawing fans in? The modern men’s game has no real personalities.
Without one of the Big Four—Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray, it’s relatively difficult to market a tourney to fans.
Is there no shred of truth in Moore’s remarks , misogynistic as they seem?