March 20, 2016

Tennis Tourney Exec: Women Ride Men's Coattails, But They're Attractive: The finals of the BNP Paribas Open are today at Indian Wells. So what better time for Raymond Moore, the CEO of the tournament host, to say that the WTA women "ride on the coattails of the men. ... 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." He also said of the women's game, "They have a lot of very attractive players. ... They are physically attractive and competitively attractive."

posted by rcade to tennis at 05:24 PM - 35 comments

Brilliant. Just when the Williams sisters were getting past the ugliness of the past to return to this venue that they had avoided for many years.

Moore goes into the hall of hallowed commentary with Sepp Blatter and Ben Wright, among others.

Tie a stick of TNT to the guy's dick and have the local spectators give him a group hug right before it goes off.

posted by beaverboard at 07:55 PM on March 20

To add to the, er, offensive quality of the weekend, Novak Djokovic questions equal prize money in tennis.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:55 AM on March 21

If I was a lady player

What year is this?

thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport

And for a long while before them, the mens' game was a just-about-unwatchable ace-off and the womans' tour was more interesting.

posted by yerfatma at 03:40 PM on March 21

Welcome to the Hootie Johnson Club.

posted by holden at 09:09 PM on March 21

I don't think Djokovic is entirely out of line. While I wholeheartedly agree anyone doing the same job should get paid as equals, I think sports are a different thing altogether. These people are revenue generators and if any group generates more revenue than another, the pay should reflect that. I don't see that as sexist and I would say if a woman's sport brings in more cash than the men's equivalent, then they should make more than those men. I don't really know the breakdown as far as tennis goes, but if it is correct that more people watch the man's game than the women's game, how can you justify equal pay. In everyday life is where this needs to be corrected, not on the field.

posted by Ricardo at 12:19 AM on March 22

Yeah, there's always a good argument for why a particular group doesn't really deserve equality.

posted by Etrigan at 05:25 AM on March 22

Well, I think women shouldn't get equal prize money at major tennis tournaments if they are only playing best-of-3-set matches and men are playing best-of-5-set matches. The men are simply playing more (time/play-wise) than the women as a default, and should be paid more. That's definitely not a case for equal work/equal pay.

Now, if you want to pay equal appearance fees for your stars to non-major tournaments, or equal prize amounts when both genders play best-of-3-set matches, that seems fair.

posted by grum@work at 06:24 AM on March 22

Moore is out.

posted by Etrigan at 09:18 AM on March 22

Etrigan, I don't think it has anything to do with equality. If you look at a sales job which is based off commission, then one salesperson is going to get paid more than the next person because he or she is selling more. I don't think men should be paid more by default. I think whoever is generating revenue should be paid accordingly.

posted by Ricardo at 09:22 AM on March 22

I don't really know the breakdown as far as tennis goes, but if it is correct that more people watch the man's game than the women's game, how can you justify equal pay.

It grows the sport. Tennis has a chance to become as popular a spectator sport when women play as men. The gap is smaller than in other sports. The women's final got higher ratings in the U.S. Open in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, the women's final at the same event sold out faster than the men's. In 2005, the women's Wimbledon final drew one million more viewers than the men's.

Having majors where the payouts are the same is a positive for tennis. The equity goes all the way back to the U.S. Open beginning that practice in 1973. It's not like the men are hurting -- a payout of $2 million to $4 million per major is pretty nice when you consider John McEnroe's entire career earnings on the court were $12 million.

The lesser popularity of women's sports is a chicken and egg situation. The women got less coverage, their sport was less popular, so they got less coverage. But as we've seen in USWNT soccer, the media-fan support feedback loop can do the opposite. Millions of American fans love that sport today. I've taken my son to USMNT and USWNT games in Jacksonville and the atmosphere and excitement are the same.

There's nothing intrinsic about women's tennis that makes it inferior. I'd argue at the present the sport is more exciting to watch when women play singles. There are more volleys, creative shot placement and mad scrambles. The men's game can be one where they just stand back and bomb.

"[A] BBC analysis of sports that pay prize money, male and female figure skaters and gymnasts earn the same purse for winning world championships. The study also found that of 35 sports that offer prize money to champions, 25 offer the same amount to male and female victors, regardless of which gender attracts more viewers or sponsors." -- 5 Reasons Why Tennis Should Keep Paying Men and Women Equally

posted by rcade at 11:26 AM on March 22

From your link ...

1. Female tennis players work just as hard as men.
Lower ranked male players work just as hard as Djokovic and Nadal. This doesn't mean they should be paid the same.

2. Longer contests are not worthy of higher pay.
I agree here. Length of the contest shouldn't play into it.

3. It's a myth that fans are always more interested in men's tennis.
I also agree here. I watch many women's sports and often enjoy them more than the male counterpart.

4. Men get paid the same as women in figure skating and gymnastics.
Why should this matter? The counter argument (which is also incorrect) is that women get less than men in other sports. I would argue the reason behind this is that women's gymnastics and figure skating draw a similar or larger audience than the men's does. And their pay should reflect that.

5. The fact that women's sports are (sometimes) less popular is a vicious cycle.
I'm not sure this is true. There are plenty of women's sports that thrive, tennis being one of them.

posted by Ricardo at 01:02 PM on March 22

This doesn't mean they should be paid the same.

They don't charge more for tickets at Wimbledon to see the men than they do the women.

The TV rights for Wimbledon are not split into a men's share and a women's share.

On what specific grounds should men be paid more for that tournament?

I'm not sure this is true.

Do you believe that 50 years ago, men's sports and women's sports both had equal opportunity to develop pros, find a TV audience and get attention from the sports media?

posted by rcade at 03:27 PM on March 22

On what specific grounds should men be paid more for that tournament?

I'm not saying any specific sport or tournament should pay men more, or women more for that matter. I'm saying each should be paid according to the revenue they generate. If they generate the same revenue, pay them the same. I don't know whether they do or not. But we can take a different example. The NBA generates WAY more money than the WNBA and for that reason, NBA players should be paid more.

posted by Ricardo at 09:15 PM on March 22

Out in the real world, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn.

The gender wage gap has stayed the same since 2001, so things are not getting better.

April 12 is Equal Pay Day.

I know which side I'm on.

posted by owlhouse at 09:24 PM on March 22

Don't mistake my arguments for sports related pay to mean I don't believe in equal pay in the real world. I am very liberal and absolutely feel women in the work force should be paid as equals.

posted by Ricardo at 09:55 PM on March 22

I'm saying each should be paid according to the revenue they generate.

Pro tennis is a weird place to draw a line in the sand. The women are a huge draw. The four majors all embraced equal prizes because they wanted to and the decision has been popular with fans.

I don't see a reason to make gender an issue here. A major is a single event. Men play. Women play. People watch the whole major. I've never heard any tennis fan say they only cared about one gender's matches while watching Wimbledon.

If we're going to divide everything by revenue generated, why stop at gender? Serena Williams is a much bigger ratings draw than anybody else on her tour. Shouldn't her first place take be higher than someone like Victoria Azarenka or Simona Halep?

posted by rcade at 11:00 PM on March 22

I am very liberal and absolutely feel women in the work force should be paid as equals.

It has to start somewhere.

posted by owlhouse at 12:49 AM on March 23

Shouldn't her first place take be higher than someone like Victoria Azarenka or Simona Halep?

Being a higher draw usually equates to skill level (although not 100% of the time). Factor in long term winnings, appearance fees and endorsements typically given to a higher draw and she is paid more. It isn't as simple a separation either. And I agree tennis isn't the right sport. From my limited knowledge of it, the sexes are pretty equal as far as draw and popularity, in which case I would advocate the pay to reflect as much.

posted by Ricardo at 08:30 AM on March 23

Being a higher draw usually equates to skill level (although not 100% of the time).

I would like that as a tennis fan, because some great players don't get the following they deserve, but fans don't always fall in love with the talented but not particularly charismatic grinder.

Eugenie Bouchard's one of the top draws in the women's game and she's ranked 45 now (7 in 2014). She's a good player with a lot of upside at 22, but I think it's fair to say that her following is ahead of her on-court success because she's considered one of the most marketable athletes in the world. There are always examples like that in individual sports -- Tiger's more marketable as a struggling duffer than most current tournament winners -- but I love sports where income is based on victories.

I wish we could have more of that in team sports, like putting the equivalent of 10% of total NFL salaries into a pool that's awarded to players based on playoff victories.

posted by rcade at 08:51 AM on March 23

As an aside, it's cool to be talking tennis here. I've been using Tennis Channel as background while I work lately when I reach my limit of mentions of the name Trump on news channels. So I'm watching a lot of tennis.

posted by rcade at 09:00 AM on March 23

Out in the real world, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn.

The gender wage gap has stayed the same since 2001, so things are not getting better.

April 12 is Equal Pay Day.

I know which side I'm on.

I'm pretty sure everyone in this discussion is on the same side, but that doesn't mean it is applied the same way.

Let's start with some basic assumptions for my calculations:

1) A set of men's tennis is equal to a set of women's tennis, in terms of entertainment value and length of time. It might not be (and I'm not sure which gender has longer sets), but I'm going to say it is for the ease of calculations.

2) Revenue earned by the broadcaster is based on advertising time sold, which is a factor of time (more time, more ads). As a result, a broadcaster is going to pay higher rights fees if they can sell more advertisement. This assumes that men and women matches draw the same relative advertising revenue which, again, I'm going to assume for calculating purposes.

The length of time for a match is dependent on the number of sets played. If we were to assume two equal opponents were to play each other, then if we assign a 50% chance for either to win a set, the number of sets for a men's or women's match works out to:

Women:
- A wins 2 straight sets.
- B wins 2 straight sets.
- A wins 2 out of 3 sets (losing the first or second set). There are two results like this.
- B wins 2 out of 3 sets (losing the first or second set). There are two results like this.

Therefore, there are 6 different outcomes. Two of them are 2 sets each, and four of them are 3 sets each.
Therefore, the average number of sets in a women's match would be 2 2/3 sets.

Men:
- A wins 3 straight sets.
- B wins 3 straight sets.
- A wins 3 out of 4 sets (losing the first, second, or third set). There are three results like this.
- B wins 3 out of 4 sets (losing the first, second, or third set). There are three results like this.
- A wins 3 out of 5 sets (losing two of the first four sets). There are six results like this.
- B wins 3 out of 5 sets (losing two of the first four sets). There are six results like this.

Therefore, there are 20 different outcomes. Two of them are 3 sets each, 6 of them are 4 sets each, and 12 of them are 5 sets each.
Therefore, the average number of sets in a men's match would be 4 1/2 sets.

That means, on average, the men play 1 5/6 more sets per match than the women.
That's about 69% more.

I'm for equal pay for equal play, but that isn't the case here in majors.

If women start to play 5 set matches, then they should definitely be paid the same amount as men. If men start to play 3 set matches, then they should definitely be paid the same amount as women.

But if there is still a significant difference in match length, I don't think the phrase "same pay for same work" applies here.

posted by grum@work at 09:38 AM on March 23

I wish we could have more of that in team sports, like putting the equivalent of 10% of total NFL salaries into a pool that's awarded to players based on playoff victories.

I'm not sure what you mean here.

Players already get paid more if they win playoff games.

posted by grum@work at 09:42 AM on March 23

Players already get paid more if they win playoff games.

I know they do, but it's not enough money to be a motivator except for the players at the bottom of the roster.

That's about 69% more.

If men and women play sets in the same amount of time.

Until women are given the option of playing best of five in majors, paying them less isn't very equitable either. If women in the workplace were paid 70% because they only got 70% as many work hours as men, they'd still be economically disadvantaged even with an equal per-hour compensation.

If the goal of a pro sport is to maximize fan satisfaction, basing pay on duration of the event seems arbitrary to me. How big a factor in your personal enjoyment of tennis is the number of sets? Do you like men's tennis 5/3rds as much as women's?

In soccer, is golden goal worse than full overtime periods because it's shorter? I hate seeing an epic match end with the players all gassed and hanging on for PKs.

posted by rcade at 10:08 AM on March 23

If men and women play sets in the same amount of time.

That was part of my assumption in point 1. If you want to go data mining and determine the difference between men and women tennis matches in terms of games/time, go right ahead. My assumption was based on neutral values. However, if you think that women sets last 69% longer than men sets (in a major), well I think you might be surprised.

Until women are given the option of playing best of five in majors, paying them less isn't very equitable either. If women in the workplace were paid 70% because they only got 70% as many work hours as men, they'd still be economically disadvantaged even with an equal per-hour compensation.

Are women asking to play 5 sets? If not, isn't that the same as saying an employee who is only given 70% of the hours to work, but doesn't want to work more than that, is being unfairly paid? If men are then told to only play 3 sets at majors, then I expect their pay to be reduce to the level of women. I don't think I'll hold my breath on this one.

For non-major tournaments, I believe that men and women should be paid the same (based on equal popularity/match length/ad revenue).

If the goal of a pro sport is to maximize fan satisfaction, basing pay on duration of the event seems arbitrary to me. How big a factor in your personal enjoyment of tennis is the number of sets? Do you like men's tennis 5/3rds as much as women's?

It's not duration of the event (by time), it's expected entertainment value. Would you pay equal amounts for a tournament pass if you were expected to see 3 rounds of the tournament, or 5 rounds of the tournament?

In soccer, is golden goal worse than full overtime periods because it's shorter? I hate seeing an epic match end with the players all gassed and hanging on for PKs.

You're talking about individual game results, not expected results. Every team goes into the game expecting to play X minutes. Some play X+Y minutes because that's how it goes, but the expectation is the same. Soccer players aren't paid per minute, they are paid per game (regardless of how many minutes in each game they play).

posted by grum@work at 10:34 AM on March 23

Is there a reason, other than historical precedence, why women's tennis is best of three and men's is best of five? In any case if the women's tour wanted to go to best of five sets surely there would need to be a transition since the current players have a trained to use their energy up in a shorter span.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:39 AM on March 23

Is there a reason, other than historical precedence, why women's tennis is best of three and men's is best of five?

None that I can find. It's based on the old idea that the "fairer sex" wouldn't be able to handle the grueling 5-set matches, like they wouldn't be able to handle being in the army, or driving racing automobiles.

posted by grum@work at 11:00 AM on March 23

grum has contributed another good analysis and an excellent rebuttal of the arguments against it. The "women earn 77 cents for each dollar a man earns" argument also needs some analysis. This, by Glenn Kessler, from April 2, 2015 in The Washington Post is a fairly well-reasoned debunking of that.

To be sure, there are gaps in pay for women vs men, but they are neither as stark as the 77 cent (or the updated 78 cent) number would indicate, nor are they solely the result of discriminatory practices in the workplace. However, tennis gives us the unique place to measure differences. Should women, having the expectation of working approximately 0.6 times what a man would work (per grum's analysis), be paid equally? If one goes by the standard of drawing power, TV money, and ticket sales, the analysis must be extended a bit. I would argue that the TV ratings and ticket demand for men's and women's matches in the quarterfinals and later matches are roughly equal. I would also argue that those matches that feature the highly ranked men against the "mid-level" players are slightly more attractive than the same sort of matches on the women's side. I have no figures to support this claim. It is subjective and based only upon what I feel. Take it for what it is worth. What I am getting at is that the top prize money for the women and the men (top 4 places0 should be equal, but this is based only on the probable demand for tickets and TV rights for the match. For the lower finishers, I would award the prize money on the basis of 60 cents on the dollar for women vs men, and this is based solely on the above analysis.

Now to throw a bit of gasoline on the fire. The question was asked by billsaysthis why the women played best of three rather than best of five. Good question. It is really historical precedent, but the reason for the precedent is the thing that might have feminists carrying pitchforks and torches to the gates of Wimbledon. Women are the weaker sex!!! At least that was the thinking many years ago when tennis began to organize tournaments. Now try to explain this to a feminist without getting your head handed to you. So here's the simple solution to the dilemma. Ask the women either to play 5-set matches or to have their prize money reduced. If they decline, then say to them that they are reinforcing the fiction that women are the weaker sex and they cannot do all of the things that a man can do. Will this not put the ardent feminist into a bit of a quandary? I think I would like to watch the fireworks as this point is argued.

posted by Howard_T at 11:23 AM on March 23

Will this not put the ardent feminist into a bit of a quandary? I think I would like to watch the fireworks as this point is argued.

Bless your heart.

posted by Etrigan at 11:55 AM on March 23

Would you pay equal amounts for a tournament pass if you were expected to see 3 rounds of the tournament, or 5 rounds of the tournament?

Fans pay equal amounts for court tickets at Wimbledon whether men or women are playing.

Women are the weaker sex!

The issue here is whether women's tennis is a weaker sport, not whether women are physically less strong than men. Fans of tennis have supported equal prize pay going back to the 1970s, so evidently we are perfectly fine with the present situation. Tennis has exploded in popularity since then for men and women alike.

Physical conditioning has greatly improved as well. There are plenty of women's players who would excel at five sets. Serena Williams and Aga Radwanska immediately come to mind. Radwanska is a fearsome opponent the longer a match goes, because she has phenomenal endurance and rarely appears tired. It leads her opponents to more mistakes.

In any case if the women's tour wanted to go to best of five sets surely there would need to be a transition since the current players have a trained to use their energy up in a shorter span.

I don't think a long transition would be required, since there are only four majors a year and that's where a call to play to five sets is likely to be manifested. It would hurt tournaments before and after a major some, because players would skip more of those events.

But there's probably more of a push to make men play best-of-two at majors than women to play best-of-three.

Billie Jean King: "I don't want the boys playing three out of five. It's too much. ... Playing two-of-three [set] matches will lengthen careers, especially for the guys. The guys are so unbelievably fit -- Djokovic and Nadal in the Australian, they were totally spent. You play a couple matches like that, it takes years off your career. You only have so many miles in your legs."

posted by rcade at 12:08 PM on March 23

As we talk about the length of a sport, isn't there an argument to be made today that shorter is better? This is a short attention span world. I feel like younger sports fans have less patience for events that take three hours or longer than I did back when I became a nerd for sport.

You can watch a soccer match and be done in two hours. A baseball game could be a five hour commitment. Which one is more compatible with modern sensibilities?

posted by rcade at 12:14 PM on March 23

I just want to thank all of you for a set of well-reasoned, non-hysterical arguments. I have thoughts about this issue as well (as everyone likely does) but I was honestly a bit afraid to weigh in given the potential toxicity of the topic. After reading through the above, though, I don't think I have more to add to the discussion.

So kudos to all. There are many forums, I'm sure, where things would have spun out of control long ago. [loud clapping and patting oneself on the back to follow]

posted by sbacharach at 12:53 PM on March 23

You can watch a soccer match and be done in two hours. A baseball game could be a five hour commitment. Which one is more compatible with modern sensibilities?

How long would a soccer match be if they just kept playing until someone won (without shootouts)? With everyone but the keepers getting progressively more exhausted, you could easily end up with a 5 hour match.

posted by grum@work at 02:04 PM on March 23

How long would a soccer match be if they just kept playing until someone won (without shootouts)?

While this is a bit off topic, one answer is given by the recent Hockey East Men's Tournament. Providence College and UMass Lowell went 3 overtime periods to reach a decision in a game that went 4 hours and 26 minutes. The really hard part was that Lowell had to play the following evening in the final against Northeastern. The advantage for Northeastern might have been mitigated somewhat by the fact that Lowell played the first game of the semifinals, thus they got to bed at a reasonable hour. Northeastern's game did not end until a few minutes before 1:00 AM. If Lowell was at all tired, it was not obvious, as the final ended in a 3-2 Northeastern win, NU hanging on by their fingernails in the last 2 or 3 minutes.

As I think about it, the way energy is expended in ice hockey is similar to the demands of tennis. Players go all out for short bursts of 30 seconds to 1 minute. They will be on the ice for about 15 to 20 minutes total in the game, perhaps as long as 40 minutes for your top defenseman. Tennis demands the same sort of brief but violent expenditure of energy, followed by a bit of rest. It's not identical by any means, but there is a similarity. I did manage to watch a little of the Hockey East Women's Tournament. Guess what; the women play by the same rules as the men, the games last the same 60 minutes, and involve the same skills and exertion of energy, minus the heavy body contact, as the men's game. The game is a bit slower, but not by much. Women's tennis requires the same skills as the men's game, although serves are generally not as hard, and some of the lower-ranked women move a bit more slowly, but I believe the analogy holds. Women should easily be able to play the longer matches. Guys, this weaker sex idea is a bunch of crap.

rcade, I take issue with one small point you raised. You said the fans have supported equal prize money going back to the 1970s. I would suggest that it is not so much support as resignation to a fait accompli, perhaps you might call it indifference. Those who are fans of tennis want to see tennis. Who gets how much for playing is of little concern.

posted by Howard_T at 02:43 PM on March 23

T20 for tennis?

posted by billsaysthis at 10:48 AM on March 24

T20 for tennis?

I think that's been around for a while, and still going.

posted by owlhouse at 11:18 PM on March 24

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