DRAME: Djokovic comments wrong, equal pay right

Novak Djokovic weighed in on equal prize money in tennis, saying men should make more based on higher attendance. -Marianne Bevis CC BY-ND 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/), via Flickr

It’s really typical for me as a guy to be into sports. There aren’t many guys you know that aren’t into at least one sport, whether they play it or follow it casually.

In terms of my sports knowledge, I’m within that fine line between a casual viewer and a critical viewer. I’m more casual for soccer, track and, these days, baseball. And I’m more critical for football and basketball. For tennis, I know of players but I’m not a huge fan of the sport. However, some recent news caught my attention.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic made some comments about the amount of prize money given to male and female players. He said that women “fought for what they deserve and they got it” but that “our men’s tennis world … should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches.” He also tried to reinforce that he isn’t trying to start a women versus men debate and that he acknowledges the struggles women go through in the world of sports.

Not too long before that, Raymond Moore, the CEO of Indian Wells Tennis Garden, commented that female tennis players ride the coattails of the men’s game. Moore added that:

“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’ve carried this sport. They really have.”

Since then, Djokovic has apologized and clarified his statement and Moore both apologized and soon after resigned from his position as CEO and director of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament.

So here’s the thing.

To be fair, Djokovic is right in a sense that people should fight for what they believe in. Outside of sports that statement holds true. However, I don’t see how equal pay among male and female players is a bad thing. If anything, this is actually seen as progressive compared to other situations in other sports or even beyond that where wage disparity among men and women is an issue.

Fighting for higher prize money in men’s tennis sounds backwards to me. And Djokovic wants us to look at the facts behind who draws more. Yes, men’s tennis appears to be in a golden age of talent, both old and new, but the women’s side is experiencing a nirvana as well. You have the Williams sisters, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber, Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Madison Keys, among others.

Serena Williams actually had some input on this whole ordeal.

“Last year the women’s final at the US Open sold out well before the men. I’m sorry, did Roger play in that final or Rafa or any man play in that final that was sold out before the men’s final? I think not.”

But wait, there’s more!

“I think Venus, myself, a number of players have been – 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.”

That was part of her response to Moore’s comments and she is right. The Williams sisters might be the biggest draw in the sport and have the most followers. Also, you could make a case that since the start of the century, Serena Williams specifically has been one of the few dominant athletes in all of sports. So Djokovic’s comments seem inaccurate.

As for Moore’s comments, they were just ignorant. He even added that Eugenie Bouchard and Garbiñe Muguruza were “attractive prospects,” when talking about their competitiveness and physical features.

Is there something wrong with complementing women? No. However, when you shoot down the idea that women’s tennis has carried itself and then you make a comment like that, I begin to question the intentions behind it. When the subject of equal pay among women in sports or other fields comes up, you can often see some of the underlying misogynistic values come into play. But that is a subject in itself for another day.

In this situation, Djokovic comes off as “Yeah, that’s cool, but what about us!” Men get plenty of credit already in the world of sports and, sometimes sadly, at the expense of women. So why don’t we just let women breathe and enjoy what they’ve worked hard for? It’s only right.

Disclaimer: The opinions of this author do not reflect those of The Whit.