Wednesday, April 26, 2006

All about the Benjamins (or Mr. Benjamin at the All-England Club)

Wimbledon announced this week that while the male champion would pocket $1.170 million, the women's champ would win $1.117 million. The new math has drawn the ire of the dormant Venus Williams, who thinks the money pot split unequal in a few ways.
"This is not just about women's tennis but about women all over the world," she said. "At Wimbledon we would like to have equal prize money to prove that we are equal on all fronts."
The issue of pay at Grand Slams has evolved over the years. Of course, it started with trailblazer Billie Jean King and the creation of the Virginia Slims Tour. Now, players like Williams can make as much as King did in her whole career -- sitting on her couch for an entire season. Yes, women's tennis sells these days, even without all the interesting rivalries that existed just a few years ago. Most would even argue that most tennis fans want to see the women duke it out, more than they'd like to see Federer triple-bagel some poor guy named Hewitt.
But equal money? And 'equal on all fronts?' I don't know. Actually, I do know. I know that if I worked with someone who spent fewer hours at work than me, I'd be really upset to find out that they were making the same amount of money I was.
If, as Williams says, this is about equality, then the women should be willing to play best-of-five matches, just like the fellas. After all, it was Venus and her sister who upped the level of fitness, and players like Mauresmo and Kuznetsova who keep that level high. Players like Chris Evert may not have been able to do it, but today's female tennis player has the ability to play five sets.
Think about Roger Federer for a second. Last year, in order to take the Wimbledon crown, he had to play 22 sets. Venus won it by playing 15 sets. (Some perspective: The men's runner-up, Andy Roddick, played 26 sets.) Perhaps, in his heart of hearts, Federer thinks he deserves more money, and a bigger trophy, than Venus. He'd never say it, though, because that would be considered sexist.
If the women's tour doesn't find it fair that they'd have to put in best-of-five performances, just like the men, I consider that sexist. As a woman, I don't want anyone handing me anything I didn't earn. These women work hard, and have helped transform the game. I can't imagine they'd be happy with handouts. But they seem to be. At the Australian, the French, and the U.S. Open.


Anonymous said...

Aaahh...the often used argument against equal pay, the ol' three sets v. five sets. It's been suggested that the men play just three sets too, in fact they do in all other tournaments except the grand slans and in tournament finals. Why not do the same for women?

Scientifically, men and women aren't built the same way, would it be fair to make one sex play more to "earn" their keep or the other sex to not play as much? But alas, that's probably a politically incorrect argument to make. Anything men can do, women ofcourse should be able to do...

If it's all about economics, male and female tennis players should get equal pay. They draw the same number of crowds, ads, etc.

And even if it's about earning your keep, women deserve equal pay. What matters is how much you put into playing the game and being a tennis professional, not the length of the match. And if it's about working hard, I do not believe for one second that the women are not training or playing as hard as the men.

Naf said...

I'm not sure where you stand on the issue yet. It appears that you don't think women can play for as long as men, and I obviously disagree. In fact, there are scientific studies that claim women have more endurance than men. I also disagree about women and men drawing the same crowds. I think more people at this point are more interested in women's tennis than men's. And lastly, let's remember that we're talking about $50,000. Do you have any idea how much money these players make, and how silly it seems for them to quibble about such an amount, especially (and this will always be the key point with me) since they don't do the same amount of work?