(ABC)– After a tennis tournament director said female pro players “ride on the coattails of the men” and are “lucky” and “don’t make any decisions,” Serena Williams called the director’s remarks “very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.”
The initial remarks came from BNP Paribas Open tournament director and CEO Raymond Moore, who told reporters before Sunday’s tournament finals, in Indian Wells, California, “In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA [Women’s Tennis Association]. Because they ride on the coattails of the men.”
“They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky,” he said. “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.”
Moore later issued an apology, but Serena Williams, who lost the tournament this weekend to opponent Victoria Azarenka, called Moore’s comments a “disservice” to tennis legend Billie Jean King as well as “every woman on this planet that has ever tried to stand up for what they believed in and being proud to be a woman.”
“We as women have come a long way. And we shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point,” Williams said.
King also spoke out, tweeting that Moore was “wrong on so many levels.”
Moore apologized for his initial remarks, saying, “At my morning breakfast with the media, I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous.”
He continued: “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. Again, I am truly sorry for my remarks.”
Steve Simon, CEO of the WTA, assailed Moore’s comments as “extremely disappointing and alarming.”
“The WTA stands on its own and was founded on the principles of equality and empowerment,” Simon said. “I am proud of all the strong athletes on the WTA who put in hard work and sacrifice every single day. Tennis as a whole is enriched by the contributions and accomplishments of every player, both female and male.”
International Tennis Federation President David Haggerty said the ITF found Moore’s remarks “irresponsible and offensive.”
“Our sport benefits from the contribution of both sexes and celebrates the achievements of great women players alongside their male counterparts,” Haggerty said. “This generation of women is blessed with talent like Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka who played yesterday, but the long line of outstanding women includes Suzanne Lenglen, Billie Jean King, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf among others who attracted millions of fans to our sport.”
“There is no room for remarks like those of Mr Moore in tennis or in society,” Haggerty said.