There are many things I’d like to be writing about. I’d like to write about how No. 7 Washington upset No. 2 Maryland last night or how NFL great Randall Cunningham has a daughter who is absolutely murdering the competition in the high jump. Instead of writing about those wonderful things, however, I’m pondering yet another response to some baseless, misogynistic comments that mischaracterize women and their role in sports. This time the comments come from respected people in the tennis community. When asked about the state of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA (“Indian Wells”) as it related to the WTA, recently resigned tournament co-founder and CEO Raymond Moore stated,
“…in my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, (laughter) because they ride the coattails of the men. They don’t make any of the 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.”
In response to Moore’s comments, ATP number one ranked Novak Djokovic stated that while he respected and admired women, female athletes who have to battle their hormones and the WTA’s fight for equal pay, he thought that men should fight for and be paid more for tournament wins because men attract more spectators and more attention. Here we go again.
It’s the epitome of tiring, frustrating and sickening to have to repeatedly defend women against chauvinism and sexism. The attacks on women and women’s sports from athletes, entertainers, politicians and average joes on a routine basis is mind-numbing. But if in 2016 men verbalize that women can’t have success in their own right or be lauded for their talents without mention of their periods, I have to muster up the strength, yet again, to tell them they’re wrong.
Rather than go on ad nauseum about how demeaning and insensitive Moore’s comments were, I’ll let the facts do the talking. Behold, all the proof you need that no woman in the WTA needs to get on her knees and thank God for any man in the ATP, unless of course she wants to thank God for her haters.NameCurrent RankingCareer Prize MoneyCareer RecordGrand Slam TitlesEndorse-ments (2015)Social Media FollowingSerena Williams1$75.9m748-12521$13mTw: 6.1m
IG: 2.9mMaria Sharapova11$38.8m601-1455$23mTw: 2.0m
IG: 1.4mRoger Federer3$97.9 million1067-24017$58 millionTw: 4.6m
IG: 1.8 mRafael Nadal5$76.4 million779-16514$28 millionT: 9.2m
When you consider the careers of two of the best known women’s players against the two ATP players Moore thinks the WTA should be ever so grateful for, it is abundantly clear that these women are a force to be reckoned with all by themselves. Serena and Sharapova have worked for and built successful careers and brands. Serena, whose 2015 US Open Finals match sold-out before the men’s, wins an astonishing 83% of the time she steps on the court and has more Grand Slams than either of the men. These two women have combined to earn well over $100 million in prize money alone. They have not a soul in the ATP to thank for their success.
While Moore’s asinine comments were both antiquated and fictitious, Djokovic’s comments were probably more insidious because they are sexist but based in some fact. It’s true that WTA matches have struggled to consistently match the attendance of ATP matches. It’s also true that prize money is often driven by tournament revenue. The issue is that Djokovic is basing the desire for men to get paid more on the fact that women are now making more, not based off of his own merits. He essentially says that because women earn more, men should obviously make more because their game is superior. There is no proof that women play a less intense, grueling form of tennis. In fact, the quality of women’s tennis in America (for example) has surpassed that of men’s tennis for quite some time now. Couple that with the fact that women sacrifice and endure unwarranted scrutiny as professional athletes, and you have an argument that professional female tennis players produce a quality of sport that is in line with, if not superior to the men’s game.
Djokovic tries to cloud his true meaning in business talk, but the fact that he had never raised the issue of ATP’s salaries prior to women seeing an increase in pay is very telling. He wants more simply because he thinks he is superior to women. He even felt the need to mention hormones as proof that women are the feebler of the species. Bringing up a woman’s period is so played out. But to his point, packing stadium seats is not the only judge of an athlete’s or sport’s worth. WTA players’ millions in endorsement money and social media followers, the numbers who watch from their homes or computers and social impact are proof of the value that society places on women’s tennis. That value is significant. Yet the chart above shows that for winning more and more consistently, women are paid less.
So who’s underpaid and under-appreciated? That would be women…still.