Recently I wrote a blog post about Raymond Moore’s (the former CEO of the California's Indian Wells Tennis Garden) sexist comments towards female tennis players. Since that time, the ongoing comments from both female players, such as Serena Williams and male players, such as Novak Djokovic, continue to keep this situation in the news.
Williams, outraged as she should be and has every right to be, and who I will add was Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year for 2015 (again, well-deserved), had some great points back to Moore. Williams stated "I speak very good English. I'm sure he does, too. You know, 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." Williams went on to remind Moore and others that the women's U.S. Open tennis final actually attracted better TV ratings than the men's final in two of the last three years and tickets for last year's women's U.S. Open final sold out before the men's.
Then Djokovic decided that he needed to also comment on the situation and he did not help matters and, in fact, reiterated the point that sexism still exists. His comments focused on the fact that men’s tennis is more popular, men and women shouldn’t be paid the same for tournaments and that women have different bodies than men and have to deal with different types of things such as “hormones.”
I don’t even know where to start with Djokovic’s comments. Sure, there are some differences in tournament play -- in a few of the grand slams, men play best 3 of 5 and women play best 2 of 3. But should this be a reason to suggest a different pay scale? Women tennis players have stated that they would play best 3 of 5 in the same grand slams. In addition, many people, myself included, would watch Williams or almost any other female tennis player (but not Sharapova- see why in my recent blog post) before a men’s match, so the statement that men’s tennis is more “popular” just isn’t true. And finally, yes, women do have different “hormones” then men do, but that has never stopped a female from achieving anything before and it will not do so in the future either.
As I mentioned in my earlier blogs, here at HMA Public Relations, a Phoenix based PR firm, we have worked with many clients with many different crisis situations and we have conducted media trainings for our clients and many individuals and organizations across the country. Both of these could come into play for professional tennis organizations and tennis players across the world. In addition, perhaps some diversity and sensitivity training might be beneficial as well. In my opinion, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in conjunction with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women's Tennis Association (WTA) should come together and make advancements in equality which includes equal pay structure. The pay structure should not be a scale based on “popularity” because if that is the case, it sure does seem as if women should be getting paid more than men right now, which would also not be fair.
I would love to know your thoughts on what could be done with professional tennis associations and players and what appears to be the lack of forward-thinking and fear of change.