Equal Slay? More like Equal Stray: A Rebuttal on the Equal Pay Argument

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A few weeks ago many of you may have seen that I wrote an article on reasons against equal pay between men and women in tennis. While some have agreed with my logic and reasoning, others haven’t. One article in particular went against my points and I thought I would reply to these criticisms even though most stray completely off the topic my main article brought forward.

Let’s start with this:
one website attempted to push the envelope even further by publishing a piece entitled, “The Case Against Equal Pay in Tennis” on Monday. Somewhat ironically, this piece came just six days after another, entitled “Sexism in Tennis is a Problem,” was published on the same website.”

Once again this has never been about sex; none of the points in ‘The Case against Equal pay in Tennis” were based on why men should be paid more based on their gender. I completely agree that sexism has no place in sport (or anywhere else) and would never say otherwise. It is also difficult to see how LWOS publishing those two articles within six days of each other is ironic, especially given the recent debate about equal prize money. Firstly, it is important to look at both sides of the argument. Secondly, the first article looks at sexism in tennis and why it is a problem, but my article was not about sexism.

Throughout the article she mentions economics several times but fails to mention where the WTA uses it to their advantage:
“From there, Fernandes’ argument turns, predictably, to economics.

“However, it is outside of the biggest stages in tennis — at events where all things are ostensibly equal — where the disparity is the most shocking, and where the economic argument falls flat.”

“…but in reality, their sex is what drives the economics — and that needs to change.”

That may be so. Perhaps (but this is far from guaranteed or proven) part of the inequality in viewership and fanbases for the two tours is based on things like the time slots that players play in. But arbitrarily equalizing pay isn’t the way to fix this. If this is a real problem, the only way to fix it would be to convince the Slams to alternate which tour gets the final on Sunday, or something like that. But, while it’s a nice theory, that doesn’t prove that it’s the root of the differences.

The writer of the article also contradicts herself when saying that in the early 2000s with this transitional period taking place on the ATP Tour coupled with the rise of the Williams sisters that the WTA was more popular which is true. However this just proves that the marketing, TV schedule and so on is irrelevant. Women in tennis cannot use the victim card as they’re not treated like second-class citizens, they get TV times and the main courts. While this may be the case in other sports such as cricket where women make 50 times less than men in the World Cup (Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/29798541), tennis is not a sport with such disparities.

But let’s go further into her article:
“Well, actually — Moore’s assertion, even while ignoring the overtly sexist language,was fundamentally wrong. A quick search of the history of the ATP over the past 20 years tells you just why.

In 2002, Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Wertheim recapped that year’s Roland Garros — in which Serena and Venus Williams contested the women’s championship, with Serena winning, and rose to World No. 1 and 2. They stood on top of the world, maybe even just as literally as figuratively, as they led women’s tennis into the new millennium and the future looked bright. Things were less ideal on the ATP side of the aisle.”

The WTA was more popular than the ATP in 2002 but it’s been 14 years since. Now it’s fair to say the WTA has dropped in popularity while the ATP has risen. Back in 2002 men’s tennis was in a transitional period, the likes of Agassi and Sampras were on their way out and the likes of Federer and Roddick were only just making their way to the top. When Moore made the statement it was obvious he was talking more about recent times in tennis when both Federer and Nadal have been around and not so far back.

Since then the ATP’s biggest star has been one of those two players, Roger Federer, who has transcended the sport. Such is his popularity his net worth is at an astonishing $350m compared to WTA’s biggest active star Serena Williams at $145 (source: TheRichest.com). The jarring contrast wouldn’t be that big if he wasn’t a lot more popular than the American, despite only having 17 Grand Slams compared to William’s 21 and winning his maiden slam 4 years later.

In fact, last year alone, in a year where the Swiss superstar didn’t win a single Grand Slam, he earned an estimated $67m whereas Serena Williams, despite coming so close to the elusive Calendar Grand Slam, only earned an estimated $24.6m (Source: Forbes)

The trend continues further down, if we look at two slamless players that are in the top 10 and have been for a fairly lengthy amount of time we find Czech Tomas Berdych with a net worth of $17.4m. Now if we look at Polish player Agnieszka Radwańska who has one slam final like the Czech but 4 Premier Mandatory & Premier 5 titles compared to Berdych’s single Masters title and 18 overall titles compared to his 12, we find her net worth at $14.7m. A popular belief is that in tennis it’s only the so called media made “Big 4” that dominate the money precedings, but when we look into it in more depth we find ATP players with less achievements than WTA players still having a higher net worth.

Furthermore, like I said in my previous article if the WTA does become more popular than the ATP and does end up bringing in more money, then female players do deserve to be paid more. If this was 2002 then I would be all for women being paid more than the men since that’s exactly the case. But right now in 2016 men’s tennis is bigger throughout, whether it’s with the very top players or those just below them like I have shown.

The writer then  offers a point with “flimsy justifications” presented with “logical reasoning”, something she criticised my article for earlier.
“At the same level, Larsson made over 50 percent less than Paire for the same amount of work. In fact, when considering that she and Kiki Bertens also won the doubles title in Bastad to take home an extra $6,150, she still made a little more than half of Paire’s earnings, yet played four more matches and won two trophies. One might even argue that Larsson’s value — when discussing ticket sales as well as fan and media interest — to the tournament was far greater than Paire’s, as she 1) was a Swedish player competing in Sweden, 2) made a run to the final for the third time, having been runner-up twice, and 3) became the first Swedish woman in nearly 30 years to win the event.

Whilst I concur the difference in pay between Larsson and Paire is alarming, this argument is presented with no statistics to back up whether the WTA tournament brought in more money than the ATP tournament. The statement presumes that because Larsson is playing in her home country, she automatically outdrew the Frenchman which is something that is not proven at any stage during the article.

Moreover this just brings up the fact that in other sports women also play the same amount as men, for illustration 90 minutes in football or 72 holes in golf and still don’t earn anywhere near the same amount. Like in my previous article I mentioned that the winner of last year’s Women’s PGA Championship Inbee Park earned under 30% of her male counterpart equivalent, far less than the 50% mentioned for the Bastad tournament.

“… one needs to recognize that the market itself is not fair across gender lines either. It’s inherently and systemically tilted and biased towards men’s sport as a superior product, purely because — throughout the course of its history — sport made itself a global industry by showcasing and celebrating the accomplishments and achievements of men.”

Whether true or not this doesn’t for one second mean such ways cannot be changed. Let’s take UFC for example, Ronda Rousey, one of their main attractions, is a global superstar now. Just have a look at UFC 193 and see that the card in Australia drew 1.1 Million ppv buys in North America. Compare that to events before such as UFC 192 which drew 250,000 buys with Daniel Cormier vs Alexander Gustaffson as the main event, and you see that in this situation a pay per view headlined by women drew four times as many buys as a pay per view headlined by men. In fact, Rousey outdraws every fighter on the UFC roster with the exception of Conor McGregor, thus proving that in a male dominated sport, women can draw huge amounts of money. (Source: http://mmapayout.com/blue-book/pay-per-view/)

Predictably she plays the sexism card to end:
“This is a vicious cycle, and as long as it remains as such, women won’t win. When the public, the media and the industry already treat them as second-class, they should — in a perfect world — have their sporting organizations to fall back on. While the WTA exists for this express purpose, it does not deserve to constantly have its status, and its players, undercut by its partners, with whom they are tasked to grow the sport.”

Reading this immediately notifies me the writer thinks as if there is some sort of conspiracy in the media against women in tennis. The men in tennis play the game at a much higher level of skill, be it biological or other factors, it’s simply fact. World #1 Serena Williams has been quoted saying she would struggle to win points versus the likes of Andy Murray. People aren’t “against women” or “biased” against watching women. To many fans, it is inherently less exciting based on the pure level of tennis. Nothing to do with the stories in the media or the star players, the tennis itself is lesser quality, and that is a major reason why less people watch it. Is it “sexist” that a large number of sports fans (in almost all sports) enjoy men’s sports more because they feel the men would beat the women if they played each other? The same logic is why, across the board, college sports are less popular than professional ones. By all means, fans of women’s tennis should convince others to watch women’s tennis because it certainly has qualities that the men’s game lacks. But at the end of the day, there will be many fans who just aren’t interested because they know that in a head-to-head matchup the best woman in the world would easily lose to the best man. You can twist stats and figures to show the fluctuations year on year between viewing numbers between both men’s and women’s tennis but at the end of the day the overall picture is that men’s tennis is more popular right now.

My article had nothing to do with sexism or against women because of their gender and ultimately equality works both ways. All I see is an article I wrote not citing any sexist reasons being turned into one for no apparent reasons. While I may have not backed up all my points and reasoning with statistics up in my previous article I have now, whereas your detractors have ran on arguments against sexism.