The debate on gender and prize money

By SAMMY BHATIA | March 31, 2016

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ALAN DIAZ/cc-by-3.0 Djokovic received criticism for recent comments regarding equal pay.

Given our beliefs about gender equality and inequality, there needs to be a discussion regarding athletes’ compensation according to gender.

For many sports such as tennis, each match is longer and more physical for professional men’s players than it is for profession women’s players. Thus, it appears to make sense that prize money per tournament ought to be higher for men, whose performances not only last longer but also draw in larger crowds and thus more profits. The other side of the debate argues that since women dedicate the same time and efforts to their careers, they ought to be rewarded the same. In all honesty, both sides of the discussion have merit.

Within the past decade, major tournaments such as the US Open have instituted equal-prize policies, guaranteeing the men’s champions and women’s champions the same reward. This has, as expected, stirred some debate.

The waters grew murky when the CEO of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden Raymond Moore said that the women’s tour, athletes and organization alike, “ride on the coat-tails of the men.”

World No. 1 and 11-time major champion Novak Djokovic recently chimed in to respond to Moore’s comments, which he labeled as “not politically correct.” Confusingly, however, he quickly turned around to say that the men’s tennis tour should “fight for more,” implying that the current distribution of wealth is, to whatever capacity, unfair.

He later explained himself and reasoned that men ought to be paid more because they attract a bigger audience and more spectators and sell more tickets.

21-time major champion and current World No. 1 Serena William’s response to the controversy, directed in particular at Moore, was perhaps the most eye-catching. “There’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”

Moore, as if he didn’t understand when to stop, responded and said, “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, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”

He was met with a storm of hate, with the likes of even tennis legend Billie Jean King herself chiming in with the tweet, “Disappointed in #RaymondMoore comments. He is wrong on so many levels. Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success.”

Djokovic perhaps did not handle the situation well either, which he only described as “very delicate.” He also claimed that he is “completely for women’s power.”

In all fairness, however, a large portion of the tennis-viewing community feels the same way, mainly because men’s matches last five sets whereas women’s last only three. The matches are longer and generally prove more entertaining.

Both sides, at the end of the day, make sense.

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