Novak Djokovic's justification for equal pay comments is not good enough

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Another day, another meek apology. As all public figures do when they make a high-profile and controversial boo-boo, Novak Djokovic has issued a statement of sorriness following some sexist remarks he made about equal pay in tennis.

The whole debacle began when the Serbian spoke after his victory over Milos Raonic in the final of the Indian Wells tournament, when the world no.1 articulated his controversial belief that the men's game should fight for more prize money than the women's. Woops.

"You know, equal prize money was the main subject of the tennis world in the last seven, eight years," he said, as per the Guardian. I have been through that process as well so I understand how much power and energy WTA and all the advocates for equal prize money have invested in order to reach that.


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“I applaud them for that, I honestly do. They fought for what they deserve and they got it. On the other hand 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."

A bit patronising, no? The women's tennis community will appreciate your 'applause' Novak. Unfortunately, it's too late for an apology, especially an un-heartfelt one made simply to deflect away some of the unwanted negative attention.

The somewhat insincere justification came via the Serbian's Facebook page and is most interesting because this apology is not actually an apology, it's a clarification. Could it be any more PR-crafted if it tried?

“As you all know, I care deeply about the future of the game and all of the players," he wrote. "Tennis helped me so much in my life and being where I am today, I felt the need to speak about the fairer and better distribution of funds across the board – this was meant for both men and women. We all have to fight for what we deserve.

“This was never meant to be made into a fight between genders and differences in pay, but in the way all players are rewarded for their play and effort. Tennis is a sport that I love and that gave me the opportunity to help others who still have a long way to go to achieve their dreams. This was my view all along and I want to apologise to anyone who has taken this the wrong way.”

So what he's saying is that he still agrees with his original point. Which is fine, because there's nothing wrong with having an opinion and this is certainly not on the same level of contentiousness as good ol' Raymond Moore's opinions, which he viewed following Djokovic's initial comments.

But the problem is Djokovic is supposed to be an articulate and bright individual, something which he goes to great pains to put across. By sticking to this somewhat old-school view of women in tennis, he risks damaging his eloquent image.

What is worse, is that his actual opinion on the subject is likely far more extreme than the one that he gives off to the public. The man is not daft, he's not going to stand there and berate women's tennis for earning equal money, he knows you simply can't do that.

But his carefully crafted 'clarification' and the fact that he is obviously willing to speak out against equal pay in tennis at the risk of damaging his attentively honed public persona, suggests that Djokovic does, in fact, hold stronger and deep-rooted views on the subject.

Moore's comments, which he as now resigned over, in the aftermath of the Indian Wells Open suggests that there are some disagreeable, embedded views in the world of tennis. It owed to Moore's ignorance that he voiced them completely, though others, perhaps like Djokovic, will be sure to keep such opinions on the down-low.

This unwelcome outlook on pay in tennis is just one factor on the issue of sexism in tennis. Worse, perhaps, is the unhealthy obsession with the appearances of female players. But one thing is for sure, it will be very difficult for the women's game to move on until equality is accepted, and Djokovic's musings do not help the situation.

Thankfully, there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel, with more enlightened players such as Andy Murray offering a counter view on the subject. But until such opinions are more widespread, the work towards a more illuminated sport will go on.

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Serena Williams
Andy Murray
US Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic

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