After losing the support of some of the biggest names in men’s tennis following his sentencing in an assault case, Justin Gimelstob resigned from his role as a players’ representative on the Association of Tennis Professionals board of directors.
“I’m stepping down because my job is to work on the sport’s behalf and the players’ behalf and in my situation, I’ve become too much of a distraction and a liability,” Gimelstob, who also works for the Tennis Channel, told the New York Times on Wednesday. “I take responsibility for that, and I take responsibility for the mistakes I made Halloween night.”
Gimelstob, 42, said he had also withdrawn his candidacy from the May 14 election and will work on his personal and legal issues.
Those stem from his arrest for an Oct. 31 attack in Los Angeles on venture capitalist Randall Kaplan, a friend of Gimelstob’s estranged wife, Cary Sinnott. She and Gimelstob are in a custody dispute over their 5-year-old son, Brandon. Gimelstob, who contends he was provoked by derogatory remarks about his late father, agreed to plead no contest last week to a felony battery charge that was reduced to a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to three years probation and 60 days of community labor and ordered to complete 52 weeks of anger management training.
Kaplan claimed that Gimelstob had threatened him months before, and testified (via the Los Angeles Times) that he was struck “likely over 100” times as he and his wife were walking in West Los Angeles on Halloween. His wife said that the traumatic experience caused her to suffer a miscarriage and “was the scariest thing I have ever seen. What type of person does this in front of children?”
A former U.S. player whose highest singles ranking was No. 63, Gimelstob had been a strong advocate for players while serving on the ATP but had lost the support of at least two high-profile players.
“I don’t see how he can hold the position of authority at ATP,” Andy Murray told the Telegraph.
“Players need to speak out,” Stan Wawrinka tweeted Tuesday. “Justin Gimelstob has been convicted of a violent assault. It simply cannot be possible for anyone to condone this type of behavior and worse, support it. In any other business or sport we would not be discussing this. The council @ATP_Tour need to do something about this and finally end this conversation and shameful period in our great sport.”
Gimelstob posted a statement to Facebook on Wednesday, writing that “my role is designed to work on behalf of the players and the sport and it is clear that I have now become a significant burden and distraction to both. That is not something that could or should continue. I’m heartbroken to walk away from something I love so much, but given the current climate I do not deserve to be in this position of influence.”
Gimelstob’s past comments about female players, referring to them as “sexpots” and calling Anna Kournikova “a b----” in 2008, meant he found little support among women in the sport. Sports Illustrated tennis writer Jon Wertheim had called on his Tennis Channel colleague to “put yourself on leave,” a sentiment with which Martina Navratilova concurred, while retired player Rennae Stubbs wrote that “enough is enough.”
In another sign of his dwindling support, Wimbledon had banned Gimelstob from the royal box and from playing in its annual doubles tournament for retired players, although he was not banned from attending the tournament.
Gimelstob delivered his decision to step down in person to Novak Djokovic, the president of the ATP players’ council and one of his allies in the ATP, in Spain, where the world’s top-ranked male player was preparing for the Madrid Open.
“I wanted to look Novak in the eye,” he told the New York Times, “and the two most important things I wanted to say were first thank you and second to apologize.”
Gimelstob, a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion, had been a representative on the board — which consists of three player representatives elected by the players’ council, three tournament reps and the CEO — since 2008. (Chris Kermode was recently ousted as the CEO, in another bit of controversy involving the organization.)
“Giving up or conceding is not in my DNA, but it has become clear that I need to take a step back — for the good of the players, the game and for myself. Solely for that reason, I now more than ever appreciate that people in elected positions of influence must be held to the highest standard of conduct,” Gimelstob said in the statement.
"I breached that standard on a night last October. I have always taken responsibility for my role in the events that evening and will continue to do so.
"While I can, have, and will continue to dispute the way that evening has been depicted, the material matter is that my judgment that evening compromised the sport and the people that entrusted me with the authority to represent them.
“I am deeply saddened and remorseful that my actions have caused the sport, players, my colleagues, friends and family such a distraction. Actions have consequences and me stepping away from a role I cherished is one of them that I accept.”
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