Wimbledon has sent me a message: I'm only a second-class champion
Originally Posted by Sash
Link doesn't work for me. Could someone pleasse ost the article!
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The time has come for it to do the right thing: pay men and women equal prize money
HAVE YOU ever been let down by someone that you had long admired, respected and looked up to? Little in life is more disappointing, particularly when that person does something that goes against the very heart of what you believe is right and fair.
When I was a little girl, and Serena and I played matches together, we often pretended that we were in the final of a famous tournament. More often than not we imagined we were playing on the Centre Court at Wimbledon. Those two young sisters from Compton, California, were ďWimbledon championsĒ many times, years before our dreams of playing there became reality.
There is nothing like playing at Wimbledon; you can feel the footprints of the legends of the game ó men and women ó that have graced those courts. There isnít a player who doesnít dream of holding aloft the Wimbledon trophy. I have been fortunate to do so three times, including last year. That win was the highlight of my career to date, the culmination of so many years of work and determination, and at a time when most people didnít consider me to be a contender.
So the decision of the All England Lawn Tennis Club yet again to treat women as lesser players than men ó undeserving of the same amount of prize money ó has a particular sting.
Iím disappointed not for myself but for all of my fellow women players who have struggled so hard to get here and who, just like the men, give their all on the courts of SW19. Iím disappointed for the great legends of the game, such as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, who have never stopped fighting for equality. And disappointed that the home of tennis is sending a message to women across the world that we are inferior.
With power and status comes responsibility. Well, Wimbledon has power and status. The time has come for it to do the right thing by paying men and women the same sums of prize money. The total prize pot for the menís events is £5,197,440; for the women it is £4,446,490. The winner of the ladiesí singles receives £30,000 less than the menís winner; the runner-up £15,000 less, and so on down to the first-round losers.
How can it be that Wimbledon finds itself on the wrong side of history? How can the words Wimbledon and inequality be allowed to coexist? Iíve spent my life overcoming challenges and those who said certain things couldnít be achieved for this or that reason. My parents taught me that dreams can come true if you put in the effort. Maybe thatís why I feel so strongly that Wimbledonís stance devalues the principle of meritocracy and diminishes the years of hard work that women on the tour have put into becoming professional tennis players.
I believe that athletes ó especially female athletes in the worldís leading sport for women ó should serve as role models. The message I like to convey to women and girls across the globe is that there is no glass ceiling. My fear is that Wimbledon is loudly and clearly sending the opposite message: 128 men and 128 women compete in the singles main draw at Wimbledon; the All England Club is saying that the accomplishments of the 128 women are worth less than those of the 128 men. It diminishes the stature and credibility of such a great event in the eyes of all women.
The funny thing is that Wimbledon treats men and women the same in so many other respects; winners receive the same trophy and honorary membership. And as you enter Centre Court, the two photographs of last yearís menís and womenís champions are hung side by side, proudly and equally.
So why does Wimbledon choose to place a lesser value on my championship trophy than that of the 2005 menís winner Roger Federer? The All England Club is familiar with my views on the subject; at Wimbledon last year, the day before the final, I presented my views to it and its French Open counterparts. Both clearly gave their response: they are firmly in the inequality for women camp.
Wimbledon has argued that womenís tennis is worth less for a variety of reasons; it says, for example, that because men play a best of five sets game they work harder for their prize money.
This argument just doesnít make sense; first of all, women players would be happy to play five sets matches in grand slam tournaments. Tim Phillips, the chairman of the All England Club, knows this and even acknowledged that women players are physically capable of this.
Secondly, tennis is unique in the world of professional sports. No other sport has men and women competing for a grand slam championship on the same stage, at the same time. So in the eyes of the general public the menís and womenís games have the same value.
Third, athletes are also entertainers; we enjoy huge and equal celebrity and are paid for the value we deliver to broadcasters and spectators, not the amount of time we spend on the stage. And, for the record, the ladiesí final at Wimbledon in 2005 lasted 45 minutes longer than the menís. No extra charge.
Letís not forget that the US Open, for 33 years, and the Australian Open already award equal prize money. No male player has complained ó why would they?
Wimbledon has justified treating women as second class because we do more for the tournament. The argument goes that the top women ó who are more likely also to play doubles matches than their male peers ó earn more than the top men if you count singles, doubles and mixed doubles prize money. So the more we support the tournament, the more unequally we should be treated! But doubles and mixed doubles are separate events from the singles competition. Is Wimbledon suggesting that, if the top women withdrew from the doubles events, that then we would deserve equal prize money in singles? And how then does the All England Club explain why the pot of womenís doubles prize money is nearly £130,000 smaller than the menís doubles prize money?
Equality is too important a principle to give up on for the sake of less than 2 per cent of the profit that the All England Club will make at this yearís tournament. Profit that men and women will contribute to equally through sold-out sessions, TV ratings or attraction to sponsors. Of course, one can never distinguish the exact value brought by each sex in a combined menís and womenís championship, so any attempt to place a lesser value on the womenís contribution is an exercise in pure subjectivity.
Letís put it another way, the difference between men and womenís prize money in 2005 was £456,000 ó less than was spent on ice cream and strawberries in the first week. So the refusal of the All England Club, which declared a profit of £25 million from last yearís tournament, to pay equal prize money canít be about cash. It can only be trying to make a social and political point, one that is out of step with modern society.
I intend to keep doing everything I can until Billie Jeanís original dream of equality is made real. Itís a shame that the name of the greatest tournament in tennis, an event that should be a positive symbol for the sport, is tarnished.