Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ray Moore Steps Down

by Savannah

The BNPParibas Open (Indian Wells) released the following statement tonight:

MAR 21, 2016

"Earlier today I had the opportunity to speak with Raymond Moore," said BNP Paribas Open Owner, Larry Ellison. "Ray let me know that he has decided to step down from his roles as CEO and Tournament Director effective immediately. I fully understand his decision."

"Nearly half a century ago, Billie Jean King began her historic campaign for the equal treatment of women in tennis. What followed is an ongoing, multi-generational, progressive movement to treat women and men in sports equally. Thanks to the leadership of Billie Jean, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and so many other great women athletes, an important measure of success has already been achieved. I'm proud to say that it is now a decade long tradition at our tournament at Indian Wells, and all the major tennis tournaments, to pay equal prize money to both the women and the men."

"I would like to personally thank all the great women athletes who fought so hard for so many years in the pursuit of equal prize money in professional tennis. And I'd like to congratulate them on their success. All of us here at the BNP Paribas Open promise to continue working with everyone to make tennis a better sport for everybody," concluded Ellison.

Larry Ellison had no choice but to accept Ray Moore's resignation. If this goes the way things usually go in tennis things will now calm down, tennis reporters will go back to their collective stupor, a new Tournament Director will be named, and life in the world of tennis, will go back to normal.

Let's be clear. Ray Moore, from South Africa, has done a lot of good. He fought apartheid, and stood on what for many was the right side of many causes. He rightly got in trouble for going beyond a statement of fact - the WTA as an organization is poorly run and that it's high level personnel do nothing to promote the game of women's tennis. If he had stopped there I don't think he would've had to step down today. The TD for Dubai is still in place and he said pretty much the same thing a few weeks ago.

What got him in trouble was being a 69 year old man who said things in a way that made him appear to imply WTA players should be performing a sex act on two top ATP players in gratitude for what those two men have done. He compounded his problems by talking about "lady players", an anachronistic and pejorative term for the women athletes who play professional tennis. He then went on to comment on the physical attractiveness of said athletes, something he would never say about the top ATP players when discussing them.

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention that misogyny runs deep in the top levels of tennis. All you have to do is listen to the male commentators when they're forced to work WTA matches. John McEnroe had no idea that Venus Williams, a fairly well known woman tennis player, had been diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome and that she'd been suffering from it's effects for over seven years. This was after it had been all over the web and in print media. His response when told about it and what it does was pretty much a shrug. When former male players are forced to work WTA matches they spend the entire time talking about men's tennis. This attitude extends to the cameramen who spend a lot of time giving us crotch shots or aiming their camera's down the front of a woman player's kit.

The WTA doesn't get off scot free either. The organization has aided and abetted this misogyny by promoting athletes who they feel men want to see. The criteria for being a WTA superstar is not what you do on court but how you look. Of European descent? Check. Tall? Check. Blonde? Check. It doesn't matter if you are flat as a board you will be presented as the sexiest woman on the planet and the way paved for you to make millions in endorsements. There are exceptions to this rule: Maria Kirilenko and Anna Chakvetadze comes to mind. So does Victoria Azarenka.

And, some will say, what about the hype around players like Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys? The desperation of the USTA shouldn't be confused with what passes for PR from the WTA. The situation with the WTA is different. It is supposed to promote women's tennis, not a particular player. This means making sure the world at large knows about it's players, is aware of their talent, and their athletic ability. It means making sure that your product is viewed by as many people as possible. Instead the WTA hired an outside firm to make deals with TennisTV, Eurosport and other major carriers of tennis content instead of controlling the marketing and image of women's tennis.

I've been writing about the failings of the WTA for years and I've sworn I'd stop writing about their nonsense several times but it seems I'm not able to do that. Every season there is some new incident that shows that the people running the WTA don't give a damn about women's tennis. And if they don't give a damn why should anyone else?

That is why the comments made by Novak Djokovic are right in line with the anti female attitude in tennis. Jo Wilfried Tsonga brought up women's hormones (menstrual cycles) as an issue affecting their play two or three years ago. Gilles Simon also spoke about women not deserving equal pay. They are only saying publicly what is said privately. If the WTA were a competent organization and didn't buy into the attitude by promoting "sexy" players the men couldn't be able to say what they do and get away with it.

Steve Tignor shared this anecdote from Billie Jean King's biography.
...Here’s what Billie Jean King wrote in her autobiography about her attempt to join forces with the men during their boycott of Wimbledon in 1973:

"At this time," she wrote, "I was leading the movement to create the Women’s Tennis Association just as Ashe and several other men had spearheaded the Association of Tennis Professionals the September before.

"Never mind that the so-called Association of Tennis Professionals would not admit female tennis professionals; I went to Arthur and the other leaders of the ATP, and I told them, ‘Look, we want to support you in this fight, so let’s work together and if you do boycott Wimbledon, we’re very likely to walk out with you.’

“Now get the picture: the men have a dispute, and we are offering, free and clear, no strings attached, to stick our necks out and support them ... So it was utterly in the men’s self-interest to accept our assistance. And did they? They wouldn’t even respond. I was never able so much as to get the ATP leaders to sit down and explore matters.”

Has anything changed? Will anything change with the resignation of Ray Moore? Sadly, the only thing I can say is no, nothing will change for the female tennis player until the WTA becomes what I think Ms King and the other founding members of the WTA wanted: an organization that works as hard as it's members do to show women's tennis as a viable, strong sport. Right now WTA members don't have that.

©Savannah's World 2016 All Rights Reserved

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