”Earlier today I had the opportunity to speak with Raymond Moore,” Ellison said. “Ray let me know that he has decided to step down from his roles as CEO and tournament director effective immediately. I fully understand his decision.”
Moore came under fire for saying that Women’s Tennis Association players “ride on coattails of the men” and that they “don’t make any decisions and they are lucky.” He added, “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 went on to note that the WTA has “a handful of very attractive prospects.” He clarified to a reporter that he meant “physically attractive and competitively attractive. … They really have quite a few very, very attractive players.”
The comments provoked criticism from the world’s No. 1 women’s player, Serena Williams, who said, “I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate,” and Billie Jean King, who tweeted that Moore “is wrong on so many levels.” The ATP and WTA tours also weighed in with public condemnations. He also was rebuked by Martina Navratilova and the WNBA expressed solidarity, too.
Moore had been CEO of Indian Wells Tennis Garden and tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open since 2012. Born in Johannesburg, he helped South Africa win the 1974 Davis Cup, was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in 1968 and at the U.S. Open in 1977.
In his statement, Ellison offered a nod to the “leadership of Billie Jean, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and so many other great women athletes” in a “progressive movement” to “treat women and men in sports equally.” Ellison noted that women and men have been paid equal prize money at Indian Wells for a decade, but Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 player, criticized Moore’s comments, but reignited that debate Monday when he said that male tennis players should be paid more than women because they draw larger crowds.
That, though, is a debate that has gone on for years and will continue. For now, the Moore episode is over.
”I would like to personally thank all the great women athletes who fought so hard for so many years in the pursuit of equal prize money in professional tennis,” Ellison said. “And I’d like to congratulate them on their success. All of us here at the BNP Paribas Open promise to continue working with everyone to make tennis a better sport for everybody.”