McEnroe supports equal Wimbledon prize money

LONDON -- The campaign for equal prize money at Wimbledon has received a shot in the arm from three-time champion John McEnroe.

The former world No. 1, now a broadcaster and pundit, said women and men should be paid equally when competing at the same event.

"There should be no argument when they are at the same event at the same time, that there should be equal pay," McEnroe said during a teleconference.

The WTA Tour has mounted a concerted campaign to force Grand Slam organizers to address the issue and Wimbledon is now the only one of the four major tournaments to give the women's champion less than the men's.

This year's men's winner at the grass-court Grand Slam, which started on Monday, will receive 655,000 pounds ($1.2 million), compared to 630,000 pounds for the women's champion.

"The opportunities that are being given to young girls and the thought that they can be in position where they can make as much money as a man, which doesn't really happen in any other sport, sends a good message," McEnroe said. "I have to point to Billie Jean King, because if it weren't for her, these girls wouldn't have that money in the first place."

McEnroe's sentiments were applauded by childhood friend and fellow broadcaster Mary Carillo, with whom he won the French Open mixed doubles title 29 years ago.

"I'm too busy dabbing tears from my eyes to respond properly," she joked. "This is beautiful. What John said couldn't have been more eloquent.

"The women's final at Wimbledon last year was 45 minutes longer than the men's final," she continued. "If Billie were on the conference call right now, the only amendment she would make to what John said is that she wants equality for everyone, this is not just a gender issue. Billie did not just fight for women; she fought for men and women. She wanted everything to be fair whether you were male or female, black or white, gay or straight. That was her overriding message and sometimes I think that does get lost."