This article was updated on March 22 to reflect new information.
The tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open who said women’s pro tennis players “should thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born” resigned on Monday night.
During a discussion about the distribution of money between men’s and women’s tennis at last week’s Indian Wells tournament, Moore, a 69-year-old former player from South Africa, said the women’s WTA Tour “ride on the coat-tails of the men,” reported BBC News.
Moore said, “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.”
Serena Williams, who was defeated by Belarusian Victoria Azarenka at Indian Wells on Sunday, said Moore’s statement was “offensive,” calling it “mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.”
“There’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man,” said the 34-year-old 21-time major winner. “We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”
Billie Jean King, who co-founded the WTA Tour and won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, tweeted: “Disappointed in Raymond Moore comments. He is wrong on so many levels. Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success.”
Moore later apologised for his “erroneous” remarks, admitting that they were “in very poor taste.” On March 22, his resignation was announced.
Tournament owner Larry Ellison said in a statement that Moore was quitting as CEO and tournament director of the $7 million (U.S.) event featuring men’s and women’s players in the California desert.
“Ray let me know that he has decided to step down from his roles as CEO and tournament director effective immediately,” Ellison said. “I fully understand his decision.”
Meanwhile, world number one male player Novak Djokovic has weighed in on the discussion on equal pay in tennis. While the 11-time major winner Djokovic described Moore’s comments as “not politically correct,” he also said the men’s tennis tour “should fight for more.”
Serbian Djokovic, 28, said women “fought for what they deserve and they got it” but claimed prize money should be “fairly distributed” based on “who attracts more attention, spectators and who sells more tickets.”
The four majors — the Australian Open, US Open, French Open and Wimbledon — have paid male and female players the same since 2007 and combined Masters events such as Indian Wells and Miami also operate on an equal pay basis.
But female players are paid significantly less at women-only events when compared with similarly sized men’s events.
Djokovic admitted it was a “very delicate situation” and insisted that he was “completely for women power,” acknowledging that women have hormones and other “challenges” men don’t have to face, as well as having to make “sacrifices for certain periods of time, the family time or decisions that they make on their own bodies in order to play tennis. [sic]”
“Equal prize money has been the main subject of the tennis world in the past seven or eight years,” he said. “I have been through that process as well, so I understand how much power and energy WTA and all the advocates for equal prize money have invested in order to reach that. I applaud them for that. I honestly do. They fought for what they deserve, and they got it. On the other hand, 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. [sic]”
While Djokovic’s comments are far less offensive than Moore’s he’s being just as sexist — basically saying that he believes women deserve credit for fighting for equal pay but they don’t actually deserve the equal pay.
Equal prize money is something tennis should be proud of. It’s a statement of fairness — a set amount to be won according to achievement: nothing more, nothing less. Not who the opponent is, not how many hours and minutes are spent on court, not how many people are in the crowd.