(March 20, 2016) At the BNP Paribas Open Indian Wells Tennis Garden CEO Raymond Moore told the media in a Sunday morning news conference that WTA players “ride on the coattails of the men.” Here are some excerpts from the news conference:
How about the WTA side? Now you are one of the four premier mandatory. Would you like to be set apart from the other tournaments, as well, or are you happy…
RAYMOND MOORE: No, I think the WTA — you know, in my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, (laughter) because they ride on the coattails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very 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, because they have carried this sport. They really have.
And now the mantle is being handed over to Djokovic and Murray and some others. You know, that’s good. We have no complaints. You know, we pay equal prize money. Do all those things. We don’t have any complaints.
But we are one of the four premier mandatory events. They haven’t said anything about changing that system.
Q. This used to be a three-man show. Now it’s a one-man show. Does that mean you never needed those two other guys (Laughter)? How have you reengineered this whole thing?
RAYMOND MOORE: Well, you know, Bill, to answer that, I think last year I had my 35th birthday, and now look what I look like. Steve leaving me here has contributed to my aging.
No, listen, you know, Charlie and Steve and myself and other people, everyone is passionate about this event. We sat and discussed concepts, where we wanted to go, and we are all at one.
If Charlie, Steve, and I were in here there would be no disagreements on concept and what we want to do with the sport.
Q. You said that there were six superstars in this game. I presume that’s four top men.
RAYMOND MOORE: Yes.
Q. And Serena?
RAYMOND MOORE: And Maria.
Q. Now Maria is out of the picture for…
RAYMOND MOORE: For a while.
Q. For a while. What’s that say about a sport that has one superstar?
RAYMOND MOORE: Well, I don’t think you can look at it that way. I mean, Maria is a superstar. She’s an incredible superstar. Well-known throughout the world, everywhere. She may be sidelined for a while. She made a huge mistake and hopefully she doesn’t pay that price, you know, the ultimate price, career-ending suspension or anything like that.
So we sit and wait for a while or to make a decision and give their judgment.
But Serena and Maria are superstars. In the world, they are by far the two best-known female athletes, no question.
Q. What does it say that there isn’t enough competition for them?
RAYMOND MOORE: Well, you know, it’s just one of those things where one lady has come in and dominated. You know, you can’t provide for that. Serena, as I said earlier, is arguably the best female player of all time. Certainly has always been in the conversation for maybe the top three. Some people may say Steffi Graf, Margaret Court, Chrissie, Martina. I think those are the five.
But she’s in there. If she stays healthy and interested, I think she’s going to beat Steffi Graf’s Grand Slam take.
But you know what? I think the WTA have a handful – not just one or two – but they have a handful of very attractive prospects that can assume the mantle. You know, Muguruza, Genie Bouchard. They have a lot of very attractive players. And the standard in ladies tennis has improved unbelievably.
Q. By attractive, you mean physically attractive or competitively attractive?
RAYMOND MOORE: No, no, no, I don’t — I mean both. They are physically attractive and competitively attractive. They can assume the mantle of leadership once Serena decides to stop.
I think they’ve got — they really have quite a few very, very attractive players.
Q. Your attendance is probably not going to go above last year.
RAYMOND MOORE: Right.
Q. Why is that? Is it obvious it’s Federer and Sharapova? How do you take an event like this and continue to grow it when that number gets so big?
RAYMOND MOORE: Well, it’s always hard when you get a huge number to increase on it.
This year our number is not quite as big as last year, but it’s very, very close. There are a number of factors. You know, we lost two days at the beginning. We lost Monday, the first Monday when it was cold, and we had 5,000 less people that day.
Big night, the Salute to Heros night when Serena was playing. We had rain at a terrible time; 5:00 to 7:00 it rained. That’s when people would be coming out to see the matches.
The afternoon session had to be extended. Serena, instead of playing at 7:00 was playing at 9:00. Walkup crowd wasn’t what we expected. We thought we would have a sellout crowd that night. All indications were we would have.
So we lose those two sessions. Then, you know, there’s no doubt about it, Roger and Maria not being there, I mean, to improve on that number we need walkup crowd to support us. Walkup is dependent on the matchups, who can play.
And, you know, as a tournament director when you’re doing the schedule and you’ve got two superstars at your disposal, I could put Roger one night and Maria another night. It changes the attendance equation.
And then there are a whole bunch of other factors. We don’t know how much they weigh into the stock market crash; the Canadian dollar is so low. You go through all these factors. They are all one spoke in the wheel of reaching major attendance records.
But having said all of that, I think we’re gonna be roundabout 40,000 people, which is right on the heels of last year’s.
So the way I look at it, this is the second-highest attendance we have ever had in 41 years of the tournament. So I’m very, very happy with the attendance numbers.
If a couple years ago we were sitting at this wonderful breakfast and chat and someone said, Well, Steve will be gone in a couple of years, and the tournament’s not going to have Maria and it’s not going to have Roger; Serena and Venus will be playing. What would you say and just talk about the change of life.
RAYMOND MOORE: Well, you know, things change. You have to adapt. And just now that you just jogged my memory, another thing that happened with us with attendance, we lost 15 seeded lady players in the first round, including Caroline Wozniacki and other like superstars that could have helped us.
But that happens. Venus. Venus lost in the first round. You know, would have helped us greatly if Venus had gone deep in the tournament. When we did the draw I saw she was in the same section as Serena, so if she had won through the two of them would have played in the 16s, I think.
Think if we put Serena against Venus at night that we wouldn’t have had a sellout? Sure we would have.
That’s what I’m saying. That’s what happens. We’ve got a really solid fan base. To get to those little extra numbers, you need to have the matchups with the players. That’s unpredictable.
Serena Williams, who lost the final to Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-4 was asked to react to Moore’s comments after the match in her news conference:
You just shared a beautiful moment on the court with CEO Raymond Moore, and he said earlier today, quote, if I was a lady player, I would go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were born. They have carried the sport. What’s your reaction to that comment and the controversy it’s created?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don’t understand why I always have to answer questions about controversy like this (laughter.) Obviously I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that.
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. So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement.
I think there is a lot of women out there who are more — are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways. I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.
Q. Do you feel like there is maybe a misunderstanding behind how people are interpreting that in some way?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, if you read the transcript you can only interpret it one way. I speak very good English. I’m sure he does, too.
You know, there’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man, which is not — we, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.
You have led women, and Venus also, have led women through a lot of struggles. Are you surprised in 2016 that’s issues and complaints and sexism are still cropping up?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I’m still surprised, especially with me and Venus and all the other women on the tour that’s done well. 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.
So I just feel like in order to make a comment you have to have history and you have to have facts and you have to know things. You have to know of everything. I mean, you look at someone like Billie Jean King who opened so many doors for not only women’s players but women’s athletes in general.
So I feel like, you know, that is such a disservice to her and every female, 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.
Q. What was your reaction when you saw it? You said you saw the transcript.
SERENA WILLIAMS: “Really?”
Q. How did it come to your attention?
SERENA WILLIAMS: (Laughter.)
Actually, I love that quote.
How did it come to my attention? Well, unfortunately, you know, sometimes we — if someone makes irrational comments or if something unfortunate goes on in the sport, you know, everyone hears about it. I’m on social media enough to hear about it.
The BNP Paribas Open issued a statement from Tournament Director and CEO Raymond Moore:
“At my morning breakfast with the media, I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous. I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologize to all the players and WTA as a whole. We had a women’s final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA. Again, I am truly sorry for my remarks.”
Q. I must do my job and ask you whether you heard the comments that Mr. Moore made.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I did.
Q. As a woman who has put all you have into this sport, could you reflect on those, please?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it’s something that, again, we have to work through as women. Men don’t get those comments. I don’t want to address or insult anybody like we got a little bit.
But I have just spoken to Paul, [sic] and he apologized. My thing is I don’t understand any man comments in general towards women, because as simple as that, every single person on earth was brought and was born by a woman, right?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think that’s a good comment and I think people should remember that sometimes.
Q. I want to also ask you this as someone who has followed you with great joy.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Thank you.
Q. Throughout your career. Let’s face it. You and other women were criticized harshly for the sounds they made on court, while men, from Jimmy Connors onward, basically were not. Did that ever cross your mind, that there was a gender difference and a response there?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it’s still a problem in the world. It’s not just in sports. It’s in business. We try to talk about the equality. Sometimes it just gets unrecognized. I think what women do best is rise above those comments. You don’t hear complaints or bad comments towards men.
From my perspective, if we rise above that and keep working hard in everything we do, we’re better. We’re better at taking opportunities and being graceful. Why do you have to make the comment? Who cares? Who cares? Simple as that. Just to make more drama or jokes?
I mean, if that makes that person feel better or bigger or whatever, it’s a pretty sad person, I think. Because if you’re happy you don’t care what other people do. You just take care of you.
I think that’s more important to focus on us. That’s what women players and examples like Venus and Serena and other players have been doing for — you know, we got it from Billie Jean King where she proved everybody, Hey, look at me. I started something, so let’s go after it.
So I think it’s our duty to keep just working hard through whatever comments there is. We’ve got to rise above that.
Q. You commented about the grunting at Wimbledon last year, your reaction to it. Do you think this is something you have embraced more as you have gotten older in this sport, embracing this role as being a leader for women through your status as a top athlete?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I believe in giving back to a sport that gave me so much. I’m very passionate. I see how hard it is to make something out of yourself and stand your ground, so I believe that it’s my duty for players maybe after me or during this time to really have this respect for our sport.
I think that comes with it. Through the years, yeah. The comments, the grunting. I, don’t care about this. I could give less of shit about it.
Because to me, I work my butt off on the court to try to win the match. And whatever it takes, I’m going to do it.
Q. Do you think that Raymond Moore’s apology is a little disingenuous given the nature of the comments he made just a few hours previously?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I’m trying not to think about it. As all my other comments, I’m not gonna bring somebody down. I’m just gonna rise above that.
Today I think it was a great match. It was a great day for women’s sport. Isn’t it international happiest day or something like this? That’s what I heard. Why can’t we just be happy and enjoy and support each other, because that’s what the world is missing a little bit.
It’s the support towards each other. Not just bashing and, oh, who is prettier or who is this, who has more, who has less.
Let’s just take care of each other.
Q. The tournament director, Ray Moore – there was some controversy today – saying women players should go down on their knees and thank the men for carrying the sport. I was wondering what your thoughts are on that comment.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: (Smiling.) I don’t know what to say. I heard about it. Obviously it’s a very delicate and sensitive subject to talk about. Women deserve respect and admiration for what they are doing. You know, equal prize money was the main subject of the tennis world in the last seven, eight years.
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.
I think that’s one of the, you know, reasons why maybe we should get awarded more. But, again, you know, we can’t complain because we also have great prize money in men’s tennis is at the right moment in the right time.
Look, I don’t know what Raymond Moore was exactly referring to when he was saying that, but this is all I can say from my perspective.
Q. But you don’t think the prize money should be equal if it was up to you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Listen, again, my answer to you is not yes and no. It’s women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve. I think as long as it’s like that and there is data and stats available and information, you know, upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed.
Q. So if the stats show at some point that women’s tennis attracts more tennis, men should get less?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Q. One of the great things about our sport is not only WTA and ATP, but the entire interaction of men and women in this global sport, do you think you’d be here today without your first coach, Jelena?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I wouldn’t be. That’s why — you know, don’t get me wrong. As I said, I have tremendous respect for what women in global sport are doing and achieving.
It’s knowing what they have to go through with their bodies, and their bodies are much different than men’s bodies. They have to go through a lot of different things that we don’t have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff, we don’t need to go into details. Ladies know what I’m talking about.
But it’s really for great admiration and respect for them to be able to fight on such a high level. Many of them, you know, they kind of have to sacrifice for certain periods of time, you know, the family time or decisions that they make with their own bodies, you know, in order to play the tennis and to play the professional sport.
So I appreciate that. I have had a woman that was my coach, and that was a huge part of my tennis career. I’m surrounded with women. I’m very happy obviously to be married with one and to have a child. (Smiling.)
I’m completely for women power.
Q. Do you think the language that Ray Moore used was offensive? He said 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?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think we — yeah, we have to be fair to say that it’s not politically correct. I mean, it was maybe exaggerated a little bit, but that’s just my opinion.
21 March 2016
ATP Statement Regarding Raymond Moore’s Comments & Equal Prize Money
Following Raymond’s Moore recent comments, ATP Executive Chairman & President Chris Kermode said:
“Ray Moore’s comments towards women’s tennis were disparaging and made in poor taste, as Ray has subsequently acknowledged. The ATP fully supports equality across society, while at the same time acknowledging that we operate in the sports & entertainment business. The ATP seeks to achieve fair compensation for its players by setting minimum prize money levels for ATP events in accordance with the revenues that are generated from men’s professional tennis. The ATP also respects the right of tournaments to make their own decisions relating to prize money for women’s tennis, which is run as a separate Tour.”
Statement by Katrina Adams, Chairman of the Board, CEO and President, USTA, in response to the comments of Raymond Moore:
“The USTA and the US Open hold player equality as one of our bedrock principles. As the first Grand Slam to award equal prize money, we have endeavored to lead the way for gender equality in sports. We appreciate the hard work and incredible skill demonstrated by all those at the professional level, and the USTA hopes these tremendous athletes help to inspire the next generation of boys’ and girls’ players in this country. There is no place in this sport for antiquated, sexist or uninformed ideologies, and the comments made yesterday in no way reflect the beliefs of the vast majority of those in the tennis world.”