I was so shocked it took me time to get mad. I have been a member of the Moraga Country Club for years, and my daughter had participated in their youth programs throughout grade school. So why did it take me this long to notice that the annual tennis classic paid out more than twice as much to the men’s winner than the women’s winner? It’s probably because I don’t play tennis and was just there to get some balls for my dogs. But there it was, proudly posted in black and white.
I spoke to several people including the pro and club manager, researched the history of pay inequity in tennis, and read varying opinions on the matter. There are a lot of opinions, and a few interesting facts. Since 1973 the USTA has offered equal prize money to men and women, and in 2007 Wimbledon became the last of the Grand Slam events to do the same. Arguments for and against equal prize money center around the number of actual competitors (there are more men), the men’s five vs. women’s three game sets, play per point or actual playing time comparisons (women tend to have longer rallies), entertainment value, and the sources of revenue streams. These vary widely from match to match and year to year. This year for instance, America’s top women’s player, Serena Williams, has been much more successful and popular than the top U.S. men’s player, John Isner.
Local clubs are the fertile ground from which young athletes develop into world-class professionals. I was assured that MCC’s 25 year tournament tradition of pay disparity against women tennis players is consistent with the model of other USTA tournaments. In this case however, tradition is over-rated, but my strongest objection to this situation is based on the fact that MCC promotes tennis programs for kids from ages 5 to 18, bringing hundreds of our children into the sport. What kind of message does this send to our young girls when they see the prize money totals? Are they too stupid to do simple math? What kind of message are we sending to our young boys? Are they inherently worth more than girls? USTA Jr. Team Tennis touts itself as “promoting important values.” What kind of values are we communicating by perpetuating this practice? The Board members of MCC need to revisit this issue and understand that they have a moral imperative to become true role models.
Let them know what you think by emailing them directly.