Written by The Business Journal Staff
(AP) — The former tournament director at Indian Wells who now runs the WTA Tour calls his successor’s critical comments about women’s tennis players “disappointing and alarming.”
Before Sunday’s finals at the BNP Paribas Open, current tournament director Raymond Moore said women “ride on the coattails of the men.” He later issued a written apology.
Moore’s longtime colleague at Indian Wells, Steve Simon, became the WTA’s CEO last fall.
“As the tournament director of one of the pre-eminent events in professional tennis, the comments made today by Raymond Moore were extremely disappointing and alarming,” Simon said in a statement late Sunday.
“The WTA stands on its own and was founded on the principles of equality and empowerment. I am proud of all the strong athletes on the WTA who put in hard work and sacrifice every single day. Tennis as a whole is enriched by the contributions and accomplishments of every player, both male and female.”
The president of the U.S. Tennis Association also repudiated Moore’s comments Monday. Katrina Adams, who played on the WTA Tour for 12 years, reiterated the USTA and U.S. Open’s commitment to player equality.
“There is no place in this sport for antiquated, sexist or uninformed ideologies,” she said in a statement, “and the comments made yesterday in no way reflect the beliefs of the vast majority of those in the tennis world.”
Moore, a 69-year-old former touring pro from South Africa, oversees the $7 million tournament in the California desert featuring the men’s and women’s tours. In the event’s early days, he and fellow ex-player Charlie Pasarell started PM Sports Management, which oversaw the tournament as it expanded. Moore became the event’s CEO in 2012.
“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. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky,” he said. “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.”
He also referred to women’s players as “physically attractive and competitively attractive.” Moore later apologized, calling his comments “in extremely poor taste and erroneous.”
“I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologize to all the players and WTA as a whole,” the statement said. “We had a women’s final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA. Again, I am truly sorry for my remarks.”
Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka also criticized Moore’s comments after they played in the final Sunday.
“Obviously, I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that,” Williams said after she lost 6-4, 6-4.
The world’s top-ranked men’s player, Novak Djokovic, said after winning his final later Sunday that he is “completely for women power.” But he also suggested that men should earn more prize money because they draw larger crowds. He later went on a tangent about the differences between men’s and women’s bodies and “the hormones and different stuff.”
Of the WTA’s successes in gaining equal prize money, Djokovic said: “They fought for what they deserve, and they got it.”
“On the other hand,” he added, “I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more, because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.”
ATP President Chris Kermode called Moore’s comments “disparaging and made in poor taste.” In a statement Monday, Kermode also addressed the topic of equal prize money.
“The ATP fully supports equality across society, while at the same time acknowledging that we operate in the sports and entertainment business,” he said. “The ATP seeks to achieve fair compensation for its players by setting minimum prize money levels for ATP events in accordance with the revenues that are generated from men’s professional tennis. The ATP also respects the right of tournaments to make their own decisions relating to prize money for women’s tennis, which is run as a separate tour.”