Public Relations for The Greatest Athlete of All Time

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tennis prSo as you might be accustomed to, when it comes to tennis and all the wrongs that take place on and off the court (see a few of my previous tennis blog posts: Serena, Serena, Serena, Public Relations for Tennis Players and When Sports Players “Meltdown.”), I like to reflect on what public relations problems exist in tennis.  As I am sure you may have heard this week, John McEnroe stated that if Serena Williams played men’s tennis she would only be ranked “like 700 in the world.” Serena responded (in what I think is a respectful manner) and just asked John to keep her out of his nonfactual statements.

What upsets me the most about the statements that were made is not necessarily the factual or nonfactual basis, but that we are stuck in a day and age that sexist comments such as this are just allowed to be made with no repercussions.   Similar to last year when Raymond Moore’s (the now former CEO of the California's Indian Wells Tennis Garden) comments that women tennis players "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" (full blog post Crisis Communications – Women… Get On Your Knees).

I know about the instances specifically as they relate to tennis because I watch tennis and stay on top of what is happening. But I am sure there are instances in other sports that are similar.

But I have to ask, what constitutes an athlete in general to be “the greatest” athlete of all time? Is it based on the sport? Gender? The intensity of the sport? Should we start having football players compete against basketball players? Swimmers against golfers? Maybe all athletes from every sport should compete in one big “Olympic” competition, all playing the same sport and the winner (male or female) gets to be called the “the greatest” athlete of all time. In fact, I pick the sport and it is going to be cheerleading!

Now this is of course in jest, but the point is to compare gender across the same sports or different sports is not the way to determine “the greatest” athlete of all time. It should be based on many different factors such as competitive spirit, overall winning record, etc.

It seems to me that the world of sports needs a good crisis communications team to get out of the 60’s sexist thinking and into today’s world in which we are equal, no matter the gender.

What do you think?

Rachel Brockway
Rachel Brockway
A former HMA Public Relations employee.

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