Sometimes, it's hard to imagine what it must have been like to grow up before Title IX, to grow up in the days when a woman needed a father or husband to co-sign a credit card. When a woman had to quit her job when she got married, or could only sign up for a marathon using her first initial.
Luckily (or not), young women the world over could get a glimpse of those antiquated notions of femininity from Indian Wells tournament CEO Ray Moore. On Sunday, he referred to the professional women -- who earn millions playing the game as part of the Women's Tennis Association -- as "lady players" while launching into a statement worthy of the fictional Don Draper or Billie Jean King's real-life opponent Bobby Riggs.
"I think the WTA -- you know, in my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride on the coattails of the men," Moore said, according to multiple reports. "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."
Hard to pick out the worst part of that statement, be it that he really doesn't think women are pulling their weight in events that feature men's and women's tours, that he has behaved well enough to be a woman in his next life, or that he used the phrase "on my knees" without begging for an immediate apology.
Serena Williams said it best: No matter the apology, there is no real room to misinterpret what Moore said. And he is wrong. The US Open women's final sold out faster than the men's last year as Williams went for a calendar slam, but she is hardly the only woman who has ever drawn ratings and sponsorships. The players who capture a tennis fan's imagination can be named Pete or Rafa -- or Martina or Steffi.
The ability to buy one ticket to see both tours at dual events like Indian Wells benefits everyone.
Or, as King put it:
You can't have a tournament director for a men's and women's tournament who doesn't believe the women carry their weight. Co-ed events draw greater interest, prize money, lucrative television packages and sponsorship. Part of the reason the men's tour has that interest is because the women are playing -- and vice versa.
Moore will never again be able to walk into a corporate conference room and convince a brand that wants to reach female consumers through tennis to put their dollars in his hands.
Moore will never be able to convince WTA executives that he is working just as hard on behalf of their professionals. He won't be able to convincingly defend a decision to put a women's match on a smaller court. He won't be able to believably say that women are getting the same respect and perks, or that resources are being allocated equitably. And if Moore can't assure the WTA of that, how can he be entrusted with that responsibility?
He has undercut his ability to do the job of tournament director for a co-ed event.
It's apparent in the comments made by Williams -- a woman who boycotted Indian Wells for more than a decade, by the way, after she and her sister were booed in a final there. After losing Victoria Azarenka in Sunday's final, an emotional Williams thanked an appreciative crowd for all the cheers. She then walked off the court and was asked about Moore's comments. Does Moore not see how his sentiments could alienate Williams again, along with the rest of the tour?
As secondary as they were, Moore's comments about the attractiveness of players are just as undermining. They seem to reflect the assumption that the WTA needs hot players to remain a success as much or more than it needs excellent ones. Even now, women can't get away from those notions. No one cares about Andy Murray cheekbones, but heaven forbid a top-10 woman not have a comely visage.
Moore's assumptions here, however, are backed by the endorsement dollars the women pull in. The double standard may be an undercurrent of the women's game, but it shouldn't be reinforced by the people in charge.
Moore should find some of those coattails he mentions and ride them out the door, because there is no amount of word salad that can explain away what he said.