Earlier today, Raymond Moore—the CEO of Indian Wells, the biggest tennis tournament in the world besides the Grand Slams—resigned with immediate effect. The announcement followed a press conference held ahead of the Indian Wells women's final, in which he remarked: "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."
Moore went on to describe Eugenie Bouchard and Garbiñe Muguruza as "attractive prospects" in the world of tennis. When asked to clarify what he meant, he said they were both physically attractive and competitively attractive.
Women's tennis is the only widely-televised ball sport in which men and women both earn the same prize money and matches are given similar prominence. Equality within the sport has been hard fought for, so for one of its leading figures to use sexually aggressive language about the sport's biggest stars being on their knees, and then commenting on their physical appearance, was more than just sexist; it allowed others to reopen disputes that had long since been put to bed.
World number one, Novak Djokovic, chimed into the debate shortly after Moore made his comments, claiming that prize money should be "fairly distributed" based on "who attracts more attention, spectators, and who sells more tickets," seemingly implying that women should be penalized financially because, in some competitions, less people show up to their matches.
Serena Williams was just one of many female tennis players to hit back at the remarks, telling reporters, "We as women have come a long way. And we shouldn't have to drop to our knees at any point."
Moore and Djokovic's comments may have shaken the professional tennis world, but will they have any effect on grassroots level tennis? We spoke to some female tennis club members and staff to see whether they'll be assuming the position for Federer any time soon.
"Society has made us feel this way."
I am shocked that, in this day and age, we're still speaking about whether a woman has the right to be paid the same amount as a man. Both men and women put in the same amount of hours, effort, and pretty much their lives into tennis, so for one to be paid more because he gets more viewers on TV is ridiculous.
When I was younger, I was an avid tennis player. As I grew older, the number of girls playing dropped, and soon, the only players at the same level as me were boys, resulting in me being the only girl in my tennis team for a while. As new coaches came in, they would automatically assume I wasn't as fit or as good as the boys and put me in a less experienced team or make me "join the girls," regardless of their ability or age. Looking back, it is incredibly unfair and a huge assumption to make, but I do feel that society has made us feel this way, and it wasn't a reflection of my club in particular.
Victoria Sampson, college student and tennis player at Regents Park Tennis Club
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"Comments like this don't really help."
I think these comments will make female club members angry, more than anything. I don't think the CEO really appreciated the level of athleticism that female tennis players need to have to make it into the professional ranks. It's a bit insulting to women to suggest that they are just there to make up the numbers and don't have a contribution to make. We run a small tournament in Bolton, and we offer equal prize money for the men's and women's singles—there are just as many people who watch them both.
Comments such as these don't help all the clubs who are fighting an uphill battle to retain female members; most clubs have more male members than women. There is always more pressure for women not to play sports, and comments like this don't really help. So I hope, for everyone's sake, Ray Moore is a dying breed of CEO.
Diane Hardman, tennis player and ex-chair of Bolton Tennis Federation
"He's wrong on so many levels."
Ray Moore is obviously more interested in money than the spirit of the game. He's wrong on so many levels, particularly that women's matches do not attract as much attention as the men's. It is only the top eight men who attract the bigger crowds, and these tend to be quarters, semifinals, and finals. Personally, I think the hype and advertising play a big part. The girls need to start featuring more on TV advertising and getting more promotional work.
Moore's comments won't have much of an effect on the overall game in the country, but they are certainly not helpful. His comments could indeed damage the aspirations of young female tennis players who are grinding away to make it.
Sue Lawson, tennis player and youth coach at Holcombe Brook Tennis Club, Greater Manchester
"I don't think this is honestly that much of a big deal."
This is a very tricky topic. The way Moore put his point across was terrible, and obviously women have fought long and hard for equal prize money, but the only thing I will say is that the market forces for tickets tend to mean that the men's events are indeed more popular, so Djokovic does have a point.
But, funnily enough, the Indian Wells women's final was much better than the men's, in terms of excitement and the amount of people watching. Serena was beaten, which was a bigger story.
I don't think this is honestly that much of a big deal; it's not going to put the girls I coach off playing tennis. Role models such as Serena Williams and other female tennis players have a significantly bigger sway in determining a young girl's opinion—a great deal more than the views of an aging CEO of Indian Wells.
Alison Hannah, head coach at Westside Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon
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