Men in Tennis Seem Confused About Why Anyone Succeeds

Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, reacts after losing a point to Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the men's championship match
Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, reacts after losing a point to Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the men's championship match of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore decided to offer some thoughts on women's tennis Sunday morning:

"I think the WTA [Women's Tennis Association] -- you know, in my next life, when I come back, I want to be someone in the WTA because they ride on the coattails of the men. They don't make any decisions, and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky. If I was a lady player, I'd go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born because they have carried this sport. They really have."

There is so much that is wrong with Moore's comments. And ultimately he was forced to resign for making these statements.

His statements weren't just offensive to the women who play tennis and the millions of fans who enjoy watching these matches; Moore's comments are part of a larger narrative that men often offer. Moore was essentially arguing that the success women have is owed to men. In sum, women don't deserve what they have.

For a 69-year old white male in a leadership position to make this argument, a few data points must be ignored. Women make up 50 percent of the population. But women only occupy about 20 percent of leadership positions. This is true when one looks at politics, Fortune 500 companies, academia, law, entertainment, banking, etc.

And in tennis, the same story is seen. Three of the four CEOs of the four majors -- Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open -- are white males (Katrina Adams -- CEO of U.S. Open -- is the lone CEO who is a woman).

These numbers suggest men are better leaders than women. But an article at the Harvard Business Review -- which examined actual evaluations of leaders -- revealed the opposite. These evaluations indicated that women were generally better leaders than men.

And that would suggest a rather obvious conclusion. Men do not occupy about 80 percent of leadership positions because they are generally better leaders. One reason men occupy these positions is because people discriminate against women in favor of men.

That means, we can argue that Raymond Moore should be getting down on his knees and thanking the world that people prefer his gender (and race) in giving out leadership positions. Yes, he won a race that landed him in his current position, but he won that race because the playing field was clearly tilted in his favor.

Moore is not the only one who failed to recognize the advantages his gender gives him. The four major tournaments in tennis all give equal prize money to men and women. For some, though, this seems unfair. In fact, Novak Djokovic used the uproar over Moore's comments to argue men deserve more prize money than women. Yes, one of the top men's players in the game decided to use Moore comments about women to complain that women are getting too much.

Djokovic argued that men's tennis can attract more fans than women's tennis. However, just looking at some numbers isn't the entire story. As Lindsay Gibbs notes, men's tennis is often the beneficiary of relatively better promotion efforts. Men are more likely to play on the main courts; and in tournaments, the men's final is often placed at the end of the tournament signifying that it is the men's final that is the main event. And as Bill Connelly put it (in words that echo Gibbs): "... when you get a majority of the coverage, and when you get a majority of the attractive time slots, this almost becomes a chicken vs. egg argument: Does men's tennis get more viewers because it's superior or because it's always been given better opportunity?"

It would be difficult to answer that question. One would have to separate the impact of all the efforts made to promote the men's games from the ability of the tennis players to individually attract viewers. In other words, you can't just look at some attendance numbers or television ratings and declare an answer.

And we would be remiss that even those numbers don't always support Djokovic's poorly timed argument. For example, outside of the four majors, men often do receive more money than women in tennis. In addition, as Serena Williams noted in response to Moore's comments, the women's U.S. Open final sold out much more quickly than the men's final. So in that instance, should Williams have demanded more money? And if so, how much more?

Again, it would be hard to answer such a question precisely. What seems clear is that Moore and Djokovic made little effort to arrive at an answer before declaring that women are undeserving of what they receive. Instead, their answers reveal that they believe it is obvious men deserve everything they receive and whatever women are given is not entirely earned.

Such an attitude should spark outrage. Once again, though, we see a difference in what is expected of men and women. Men are often allowed in public places (i.e. talk radio, politics, etc.) to loudly express their outrage. Women, though, are expected to be more subdued. In fact, even though the value of Williams and other women was directly insulted, the response Williams offered was measured and calm. And Williams was essentially the only WTA player to speak up at all. As Lindsey Darvin noted, women are not expected to loudly attack those who seek to diminish their value.

All of this points to a much larger issue. Men often take the advantages culture bestows on them for granted. They assume that they deserve to win at contests that are tilted in their favor. And they expect that those who lose at these unfair contests to accept defeat without becoming angry.

Obviously such behavior requires one be blind to the privileges a person has inherited. And it's those privileges that ultimately drive the incorrect analysis offered by both Moore and Djokovic.