Linda Robertson

Sexist anti-WTA remarks are wrong and demeaning

Serena Williams returns a shot to Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, in a final at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, Sunday, March 20, 2016, in Indian Wells, Calif. Azarenka won 6-4, 6-4.
Serena Williams returns a shot to Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, in a final at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, Sunday, March 20, 2016, in Indian Wells, Calif. Azarenka won 6-4, 6-4. AP

Now that sexist tennis executive Raymond Moore has been forced to resign from his job running one of the premier dual gender sporting events in the world, he can ask Donald Trump for work.

They belong to the same Good Old White Boys network and are stuck in the same time warp.

Moore and Trump are glaring examples of men who somehow simultaneously hold prominent positions of power and antiquated views of women. It is disconcerting to think how many more of them are out there, comfortable in their cluelessness.

Moore, who was CEO of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., until he lost his job late Monday night, sounded like Bobby Riggs circa 1973 when he disparaged women's tennis players and women in general on Sunday morning prior to the championship matches of the tournament.

“If I was a lady player, I would 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 said.

Moore was eating a breakfast of right and left foot as he insulted the Women’s Tennis Association, which was co-founded by Billie Jean King.

“In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA because they ride on the coattails of the men,” he said. “They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky.”

Moore, a 69-year-old former pro from South Africa, could not stop himself from sharing more of his expert knowledge. He discussed who might succeed Serena Williams, who obviously won her 21 Grand Slams and became one of the most recognizable faces in the world only by riding on the coattails of male players.

“I think the WTA have a handful — not just one or two — but they have a handful of very attractive prospects that can assume the mantle,” he said. “They have a lot of very attractive players and the standard in ladies tennis has improved unbelievably.”

When given a chance to clarify whether he meant attractive in the physical sense or the competitive sense, Moore took another confident step backward.

“I mean both,” he said. “They are physically attractive and competitively attractive. They can assume the mantle of leadership once Serena decides to stop.”

So, according to Moore, these "very attractive" "lady players" should kneel at men's feet for allowing their sport to exist. Margaret Court, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova should also thank their lucky stars that the men carried tennis. It's a wonder Moore approves of women hitting tennis balls at all. Shouldn't they be in the kitchen, cooking a pot roast? Or ironing his underwear?

Moore later issued an apology for his “erroneous” remarks, well after he had presented Victoria Azarenka and Williams with trophies following Azarenka’s 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Williams, who with sister Venus not only elevated the popularity of the entire sport but inspired black athletes and empowered women in all walks of life, responded to Moore with an ace.

“There’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough …” she said. “We as women have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.

“If I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister; I couldn’t even bring up that number.”

Williams said Moore had disrespected King “and every female, not only a female athlete but every woman on this planet, that has ever tried to stand up for what they believed in and being proud to be a woman.”

Azarenka said she was tired of comparisons between "who is prettier, who has more, who has less." She has pointed out how women get criticized for grunting too loudly during matches but men don't.

“What women do best is rise above those comments,” she said. “You don’t hear complaints or bad comments towards men.”

Martina Navratilova, whose rivalry with Chris Evert was one of the most captivating in any sport, said women had made it "this far on our own, without help from male players, and will continue to do so in the future."

But Moore was not the only misguided man unmasked at the $10 million tournament. Novak Djokovic ripped open the old, contentious issue of equal prize money for men and women, saying men deserve more because they attract more fans to their matches — neglecting to mention that it depends on the player and goes in cycles.

The U.S. Open women's final sold out before the men's last year, in anticipation of Williams' calendar Grand Slam.

Like the Slams, Masters events such as the Miami Open and Indian Wells pay the same prize money precisely because the combination of genders is what draws spectators and TV viewers, benefiting both male and female players. The wage gap between women-only and men-only events is significant. Last year, the top three women’s players’ earnings were about half those of the top three men; No. 1 Williams earned $10.6 million compared with No. 1 Djokovic’s $21.6 million.

Then, like Moore, Djokovic tried to compliment women but wound up demeaning them.

“I have tremendous respect for what women in global sport are doing and achieving,” he said. “Their bodies are much different to men’s bodies. They have to go through a lot of different things we don’t have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff, we don’t need to go into details.”

No, we don’t. Nor does anyone need to hear Trump making fun of Carly Fiorina’s face or declaring Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break during a debate “disgusting.”

Spare us the talk of how Williams’ dominance is dull while Djokovic’s is divine. She and Venus were big stars before he was, so perhaps he should be thankful for their coattails. Those “very attractive lady players” are fed up with the double standard.

It was not a good day for women out in the desert at Indian Wells. But it was much worse for men.

Related stories from Miami Herald