Venus Williams - Fight For Equal Prize Money

Fight For Equal Prize Money

Despite years of protesting by tennis pioneer Billie Jean King and others, in 2005 the French Open and Wimbledon still refused to pay women's and men's players equally through all rounds. In 2005, Williams met with officials from both tournaments, arguing that female tennis players should be paid as much as males. Although WTA tour President Larry Scott commented that she left "a very meaningful impression", Williams's demands were rejected.

The turning point was an essay published in The Times on the eve of Wimbledon in 2006. In it, Williams accused Wimbledon of being on the "wrong side of history", writing:

I feel so strongly that Wimbledon's stance devalues the principle of meritocracy and diminishes the years of hard work that women on the tour have put into becoming professional tennis players.

I believe that athletes – especially female athletes in the world's leading sport for women – should serve as role models. The message I like to convey to women and girls across the globe is that there is no glass ceiling. My fear is that Wimbledon is loudly and clearly sending the opposite message....

Wimbledon has argued that women's tennis is worth less for a variety of reasons; it says, for example, that because men play a best of five sets game they work harder for their prize money.

This argument just doesn’t make sense; first of all, women players would be happy to play five sets matches in grand slam tournaments....

Secondly, tennis is unique in the world of professional sports. No other sport has men and women competing for a grand slam championship on the same stage, at the same time. So in the eyes of the general public the men's and women's games have the same value.

Third, ... we enjoy huge and equal celebrity and are paid for the value we deliver to broadcasters and spectators, not the amount of time we spend on the stage. And, for the record, the ladies’ final at Wimbledon in 2005 lasted 45 minutes longer than the men's....

Wimbledon has justified treating women as second class because we do more for the tournament. The argument goes that the top women – who are more likely also to play doubles matches than their male peers – earn more than the top men if you count singles, doubles and mixed doubles prize money. So the more we support the tournament, the more unequally we should be treated! But doubles and mixed doubles are separate events from the singles competition. Is Wimbledon suggesting that, if the top women withdrew from the doubles events, that then we would deserve equal prize money in singles? And how then does the All England Club explain why the pot of women's doubles prize money is nearly £130,000 smaller than the men's doubles prize money?

I intend to keep doing everything I can until Billie Jean's original dream of equality is made real. It's a shame that the name of the greatest tournament in tennis, an event that should be a positive symbol for the sport, is tarnished.

In response, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and members of Parliament publicly endorsed Williams's arguments. Later that year, the Women's Tennis Association and UNESCO teamed for a campaign to promote gender equality in sports, asking Williams to lead the campaign. Under enormous pressure, Wimbledon announced in February 2007 that it would award equal prize money to all competitors in all rounds, and the French Open followed suit a day later. In the aftermath, the Chicago Sun-Times cited Williams as "the single factor" that "changed the minds of the boys" and a leader whose "willingness to take a public stand separates her not only from most of her female peers, but also from our most celebrated male athletes." Williams herself commented, "Somewhere in the world a little girl is dreaming of holding a giant trophy in her hands and being viewed as an equal to boys who have similar dreams."

Venus herself became the first woman to benefit from the equalization of prize money at Wimbledon, as she won the 2007 tournament and was awarded the same amount as the male winner Roger Federer.

Read more about this topic:  Venus Williams

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