Responding to inflammatory remarks by Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore — who resigned Monday night — Billie Jean King and a number of other prominent figures in women’s sports on Monday found themselves denouncing sexism and defending female athletes.
On Sunday, Moore told reporters that players in the WTA “ride on the coattails of the men,” adding that they should “get on their hands and knees and thank God” for popular male players such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Tournament owner Larry Ellison announced last night that Moore has resigned as CEO and tournament director of the $7 million BNP Paribas Open in the California desert.
Although Moore has called his remarks “in extremely poor taste and erroneous,” they stirred up a storm of outrage throughout the tennis world and beyond.
In statements from the USTA, the Women’s Sports Foundation (an advocacy group in which King is founder and honorary chair) and from members of the WNBA, Moore’s statements were characterized as “disparaging,” “sexist,” “disheartening” and “not uncommon.”
“There is no place in this sport for antiquated, sexist or uninformed ideologies,” said Katrina Adams, president of the USTA. “The comments made in no way reflect the beliefs of the vast majority of those in the tennis world.”
Moore’s comments came during a morning news conference, hours before Serena Williams lost to Victoria Azarenka in the BNP Paribas Open (also known as the Indian Wells Masters).
“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 said. Later in the conversation, he commented on emerging female players, calling them “physically attractive and competitively attractive.”
Williams, a certain Hall of Famer, called the remarks “offensive” in a post-match news conference, adding: “We as women have come a long way. We shouldn’t drop to our knees at any point.”
Swin Cash and Tina Charles of the WNBA’s Liberty issued a joint statement. “We stand with our fellow athletes of the Women’s Tennis Association, and we invite Raymond Moore and the other ‘Raymond Moores of the world’ to re-evaluate their stereotypes and biases,” Cash and Charles wrote. “In the meantime, we’ll continue to be leaders on and off the court.”
The Women’s Sports Foundation underlined the work that King and other women and men have done to advance equality, and said the WTA and its players “have established a vibrant legacy of their own.”
“His comments undermine the achievements of women in sport and women in our society as a whole,” the Women’s Sports Foundation said. “Wo men’s sports and the accomplishments of female athletes are undervalued in our society, with women regularly receiving less compensation and fewer sponsorship opportunities than their male counterparts.”
In a firm denunciation, WNBA president Lisa Borders said: “We need to empower female athletes and promote opportunities for girls and women to play sports, rather than promote outdated, offensive and uninformed opinions.
“The WNBA condemns the disparaging remarks . . . [Female athletes] inspire millions of fans and work hard to be the best in their sports by competing at the highest levels, breaking records and winning championships.”