The unfortunate views on women’s tennis expressed yesterday (Mar. 20) by the CEO of the Indian Wells tennis tournament, Raymond Moore, set off a firestorm, with perhaps the most powerful response coming from Serena Williams.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of this year’s Indian Wells tournament finals in California, Moore reportedly said the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) benefitted from the successes of men in the sport. ”You know, 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,” several news outlets, including ESPN, reported Moore as saying. ”They don’t make any decisions, and they are 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…”
Just in case that wasn’t enough to anger every female tennis player (and fan), Moore also referred to certain professional female players as “physically attractive” (as well as “competitively attractive”):
Novak Djokovic also weighed in on the topic, saying that while he didn’t think Moore’s comments were “politically correct,” he did feel male tennis players should earn more than their female colleagues because they attracted larger audiences, the BBC reported.
It’s unclear what prompted Moore’s remarks, for which he later apologized, calling them “in extremely poor taste and erroneous.” But the reactions were already pouring in, including from tennis legend Billie Jean King, an advocate for women’s role in the sport and co-founder of World Team Tennis, a co-ed tennis league:
Serena Williams delivered a powerful response when she addressed Moore’s comments at a press conference following the final, which she lost to Victoria Azarenka. Women bring great value to tennis and its audiences, Williams said, replying to Moore’s insinuation that it was men who primarily drive interest in the game. “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,” ESPN reported Williams as saying.
Williams specifically cited the fact that she was responsible for the 2015 US Open women final’s tickets being sold out before the men’s finals for the first time in history, as everyone was expecting her to compete—though she eventually went out at the semi-finals, taking ticket prices with her.
Williams said she doubted Moore’s words might have been misinterpreted. ”You know, there’s only one way to interpret that,” Williams replied, “get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man … We, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”
This isn’t Williams’ first run-in with Indian Wells—she previously boycotted the tournament for 14 years after experiencing what she described as an “undercurrent of racism,” returning only last year.
On top of destroying him for his shortsighted sexist remarks, Williams served Moore a magistral lesson at handling press conferences: she went in having lost to Azarenka, and came out the winner, concluding that Moore’s remarks were a disservice to “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.”