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Serena Williams Responds To Indian Wells CEO's Suggestion That Female Players 'Get Down On Their Knees

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Yesterday, on the final Sunday of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells -- one of the biggest joint WTA-ATP events -- tournament director Raymond Moore was asked about the role of the Women's Tennis Association. He responded with a shocking display of ignorance and sexism.

“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. “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.”

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Serena Williams, who lost to Victoria Azarenka yesterday, saw Moore’s comments after her match and immediately denounced them. “I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that,” she said, according to the New York Times.

“I think Venus, myself, a number of players — if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister — I couldn’t even bring up that number. So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement.”

Responding to the notion that Moore’s comments might have been misconstrued, Williams really brought her point home: “There’s only one way to interpret that,” she said. “‘Get on your knees,’ which is offensive enough, and ‘thank a man’? We, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”

Damn right. The abhorrent tone-deafness of Moore’s comments about women “dropping to their knees” is astounding. And the idea that women “ride on the coattails of men” is also just plain wrong. Williams pointed out that last year’s US Open was the first tournament in history to sell out the women’s final before the men’s. “I’m sorry, did Roger play in that final?” Williams asked. “Or Rafa, or any man, play in that final that was sold out before the men’s final? I think not.”

Billie Jean King, founder of the WTA and advocate for equality in sports, tweeted a response to Moore's comments. “He is wrong on so many levels,” King wrote. “Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success.”

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The tournament issued an apology from Moore. “I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous,” he said. “I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologize to all the players and WTA as a whole. We had a women’s final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA.”

But he wasn’t the only one spouting the idea that women are less valuable in tennis. Top-ranked player Novak Djokovic, after winning the men’s final, took the opportunity to argue that men should be awarded more prize money than women. “I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches,” Djokovic said, proving himself to be not only an advocate for the ATP but also for MRA. “I think that’s one of the, you know, reasons why maybe we should get awarded more... Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve.”

Thanks, Djokovic. What a progressive argument: that men should be compensated more in a world where men are already compensated more.

Wait, no, Djokovic gets it! He understands women! He knows we have “hormones and different stuff”! “Knowing what they have to go through with their bodies — and their bodies are much different than men’s bodies — they have to go through a lot of different things that we don’t have to go through,” he commented. “You know, the hormones and different stuff — we don’t need to go into details. Ladies know what I’m talking about. Really, great admiration and respect for them to be able to fight on such a high level.”

I don’t think the “ladies” of the WTA need your condescending “admiration,” Djokovic. Or your too-little-too-late apology, Moore. You’re both categorically wrong. Not only did the US Open women’s final sell out first last year-- the last two women’s finals in the US Open have had higher TV ratings than the men’s. Venus and Serena Williams are household names and utter superstars whether you’re a sports fan or not, and they, along with other star players like Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, and Agnieszka Radwanska, have brought star power and incredible talent to the tennis world. A CEO of a major tennis tournament should probably know that.

It's a disgusting case of condescencion and belittlement. Superstar female athletes being told they should “get down on their knees” and be grateful? Seems like these athletes are bringing money, prestige and attention to your sport, Moore. I know my lady-head is filled with “hormones and different stuff,” but it seems like maybe you should be the one down on your knees in gratitude.

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Top image via Twitter/Serena Williams

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