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Tennis: The Equality Issue

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The pay issue in professional tennis has ingredients that captivate the mind: authority versus player, man versus woman. The issue has reached boiling point with the announcement of the All England Club. Reports CNN:

The All England Club announced on Tuesday that its singles winners would receive a four percent increase, but with the men’s champion receiving 30,000 pounds ($51,000) more than his female counterpart.

This leaves Wimbledon as the only Grand Slam which gives away less prize money to its champions. French Open announced equal pay for its champions earlier this year. However, they still give more money to the men compared to the women. The US Open gives its prize money down the middle though as seen by the 2005 distribution.

The women are fuming. Former player’s Chris Evert and Billie Jean King’s views from the same CNN article:

Three-time winner Chris Evert called the decision “a black mark for the sport.”

“Wimbledon should do the right thing and award all women’s players equal pay to the men,” added the American.

Six-time winner Billie Jean King said: “Wimbledon needs to join the modern world on this issue.”

The current players are making no small talk either. Venus William’s says, almost threatening:

“We want to be treated equally as the men. This is not just about women’s tennis but about women all over the world,” she told BBC Sport.” At Wimbledon we would like to have equal prize money to prove that we are equal on all fronts.

“We will keep lobbying on the matter. We don’t want to deprive fans from seeing women’s tennis but we are willing to be extremely proactive in our stance.”

Maria Sharapova has logic to back her:

“Women’s tennis players are getting as many sponsors and media coverage as the men, and I understand that our TV ratings at the Grand Slams are pretty much equal to and often better than the men so I don’t understand the rationale for paying the men more than us.”

All England Club chairman Tim Phillips counters the views. From Fox sports:

Phillips said the WTA Tour paid 63 percent less to players in an average week than the ATP Masters Series did.

“Whereas we’re 87 percent,” Phillips said. “So it seems to me we are much closer to equal prize money than they are on the rest of the tour.”

One issue, a lot of statements and a lot of layers if the surface is scratched a bit. Women give as much effort as men. So why should they not be paid equally is one argument. Well, I am sure the curling players also give as much effort. So why not pay them money too then? Or why not pay all the women equally then as they all put as much effort?

The second argument from the other side borders on insanity. Women play three sets and not five. So they are bound to be played less. Michael Jordan does not play basketball any more. Still he earns more than many women players. So maybe Jordan should come out of retirement? Or what about boxers. They box far less compared to how much time tennis players play. So maybe they should be paid less then?

The airtime question comes up. As women occupy less airtime because there matches are shorter, the sponsors get much less exposure. So it is justified that the players are paid less. Well, women have played five-set tournaments in the WTA season ending championships. So it is not as if the women aren’t capable of playing five sets. So do women have to play five sets at Wimbledon to get equal prize money?

The question I want to ask is, why is the WTA paying women lower compared to the ATP if we exclude the Grand Slams? Should not the WTA, champions of equality, pay women equivalent to what men get by the stand they take? The opposition to this is on the lines – ‘it is the WTA’s business what it does in other tournaments. When men and women, both play, we should get equal prize money.’

I scoff at the idea. The issue is not about women’s rights. The issue is not about equality. The issue is about market worth. If women’s tennis is more sellable, I would not grudge it even paying more than men’s tennis does. I do not like that the other three Grand Slams have succumbed to the pressure tactics in one way or another, at one point or the other.

Women’s tennis and men’s tennis are different sports. So if one has more spectators than the other, one gets more revenue and distributes more to the players. The issue of equal prize money is not new. A feedback to BBC from 2002 looks as relevant now as it did back then.

I spoke on the issue with blogger Sujatha Bagal who could give a proper woman’s angle on the issue:

The market forces theory is good, but it does not take into account so many other relevant variables Market forces can be created if there is the will. Equal prize money is about recognizing women for the effort they’ve put in, acknowledging that they’ve reached the pinnacle of their sport and rewarding them for it. Why are women’s finals played on Saturdays while men’s are on Sundays?

Why are the market forces not created then? If I was a promoter of a tournament, I would look at maximizing the demand. Or is it just a case of revenues not going back to the players who generate them?

The WTA stars certainly believe they deserve higher pay. Wimbledon would bear huge losses if the stars do not turn up. With three Grand Slams agreeing to the demand of the women, Wimbledon’s stands weak on the bargaining table regardless of how fair this is. The women know it and are letting Wimbledon know it as well.

I do have an issue with equality though. The female prostitutes get paid a lot more than the male prostitutes because there is higher demand for the female prostitutes. It would look very silly if the male prostitutes ask for equal pay. The platforms are different but the point of contention remains the same.

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About Pratyush Khaitan

  • Ordinaryfool

    I fell in love with tennis when I first saw Chrissie Evert play Forrest Hills in 1971. She was 16 and I was 12. Since that time, I’ve seen many matches, including attending the 1982 US Open in person.

    When Jimmy Connors started — it was as “Chrissie Evert’s boyfriend.” Don’t believe me — check out Sports Illustrated March 4, 1974, and you’ll see his quotes complaining about it.

    Fact is, SHE was THE marquee player who got paying customer’s butts in the seats. She was an attraction as monetarily viable as any man playing the game.

    The same is true of the Williams sisters, and also the women’s game (although being taken over by the power game), is more fun to watch, and that’s been written many many times in various magazines over the last 35 years (since I’ve been interested in the game).

    The men’s game is power, power, power, and quite boring in my opinion (although, I admit that the women’s game is starting to get to the power only level — and its a shame).

    For me, that means that the women deserve equal pay! So, its time to stop the pitiful excuse about the men playing best of 5 (the women OFFERED TO PLAY BEST OF FIVE DECADES AGO), and pay the women for what they do — attract paying butts in the seats, dollars to the sponsors.

    You mention Michael Jordon…well he got paid the big bucks BECAUSE he got people to buy tickets. The same as the women tennis players.

    Equal opportunity shouldn’t even be an issue in 2006. But, Wimbledon has always been a staid and backward place. Why else are the women listed by their married names, instead of the names they choose to play under! Rubbish!

    Still, people can’t resist the strawberries and cream, and that atmosphere. So, Wimbledon can’t be abandoned, the women will just have to keep fighting to get those thick headed idiots to wake up into modern times!!!!

    Idiots!

  • http://dhanaisat.blogspot.com Curious Yellow

    The quality of women’s and men’s tennis is different. Have you seen women’s matches these days? The winner is the person who can hold serve succesfully, not break like in the men’s game. I’ve seen matches where women trade breaks all the way through till the tie-break and then trade unforced errors to give the set away away. Also, who can forget Justine Henin defaulting in the final, and not just any final, but a Grand Slam final this year because she had a tummyache. Absolutely ridiculous.

    While sponsors are all well and good, who is it that keeps people playing tennis? It’s certainly not the women. The men single handedly keep brand names for tennis like Wilson, Babolat etc in business and kids on tennis courts year in year out.

    Women’s tennis sorely lacks the personalities men’s tennis has. Does a single top ten women’s player have the charisma of Federer, Agassi or Nadal? Sharapova is a mannequin, the Williams sisters have lost touch with reality and everyone else is just a non-entity. The rivalries it possessed 10-15 years ago are gone as well. After Hingis, nobody even came close to being as watchable as Steffi Graf and nobody has come close to emulating the Graf-Seles rivalry either.

    If women want equal prize money then maybe they should play better tennis rather than hide behind the sexual equality card.

    Can you imagine anything more boring than women in 5 set matches? Have you seen the time it takes them to complete 2 sets let alone 5? Kill me now please!

  • RedTard

    It should be up to market forces to determine the pay, if women’s tennis gets equal or greater sponsorship they should expect matching or higher prizes or boycott/strike until they do. Outside of that, if women want equality for the sake of feminist bullshit, let them shut down their own leagues and compete against the men in a single league for equal prizes.

  • Ordinaryfool

    I watched Federer in a match two days ago on my newly acquired Tennis Channel, and I was bored to tears. Power hit/power serve, with nothing inbetween. BORING…

    The US Fed Cup team was more interesting — and those girls ain’t even ranked in the top 10! Yuck!

    For me, the women’s game was the William’s sisters. And they surely have gone off the hook with their lives.

    But here I finally have my new Tennis Channel, and now I see no point in watching at all. Tennis is dead – be it man or woman.

    Based on that, pay the ladies equal money for being just as boring as the men are. While doing so, perhaps its time to explore whether the equipment is ruining the game.

    I argue that the NFL realized that not having rules to protect Quarterbacks and Receivers was causing the game harm. So, now they limit when, how, these two critical positions (loaded with big money talent) can be hit. Its lead to less injuries. In the end, its been better for the game.

    I think making the game a little slower by changing the rackets, could once again make the game more interesting. Perhaps make it possible to return more finess shot/volleyers/delightful passing shot oriented players to return to contention.

    The blogger wrote:

    “The female prostitutes get paid a lot more than the male prostitutes because there is higher demand for the female prostitutes. It would look very silly if the male prostitutes ask for equal pay. The platforms are different but the point of contention remains the same”

    The fact is, most men do not know how to adequately please a woman (and the poor fools don’t even realize it)! Why pay some guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing — and who could be a physical/health risk, to do what a mechanical device can do much better for cheaper and longer, and with little risk to one’s health and saftey!

    That’s why male prostitutes are not in equal demand in the heterosexual community!

    Although, I do agree that sex workers in the gay and lesbian industry (IS there such a thing! LOL), should get equal pay.

  • juspassinthru

    I find it interesting that women want equal pay to do less on the playing field than men. Why? Because they are women! OK. Let them play against the men. They won’t do that because it would be “unfair”. Why? Because men are stronger and faster than women.

    Take a look at golf. There are “ladies tees” which are much closer to the hole. How fair is that? Or how about the WNBA? They lower the basket for the little darlings so they can be “equal”. Plus they have smaller balls. And that, my friends, is the problem.

    No amount of social engineering or shouting or threats will ever change that.

  • Hi

    next time add a person who could read me the article that is very helpfull to unskilled readers like the girl sitting two seats from me. thank you this article was fun to read and very interesting !

  • jacklyn simonashah

    her name is jacklyn

  • bv mvnm

    she also is very unable to count she has many issues but thats ok just please make a person read the article outloud