Author Archives: tennisprof1

Media Hits and Misses At Indian Wells

By Dr. Jacquelyn Cuneen

This is part of an ongoing series of guest posts by those in academia and in the professional world of sport. This week’s post is written by Dr. Jacquelyn Cuneen, Ph.D, a former Sport Management Professor at Bowling Green State University.

Usually, tennis news is just like other sports news — who won the games, how they won the games, who rivals who, who dominates, and when do they play again. Except, quite often, an age-old dispute emerges from tennis that causes us to revisit a new version of an old controversy. Sexism!

The BNP Paribas Open — Indian Wells — is a premier stop on both the women’s and men’s tennis tours. The tournament is greatly respected by players, fans, and media, and it is so prestigious that Indian Wells may one day be granted Grand Slam status. Thus, all the top players compete, global media cover the matches from start to finish, and fans set attendance records each year. In other words, the tournament itself is news. However, from the very start to the very finish of 2016’s event, the global media had much more to cover than matches when sexism, tennis’ recurring nemesis, once again intruded. And while the media devoted more than ample coverage to the major stories, they missed some critical undercurrents.

Opening day brought the Maria Sharapova doping scandal. The world number 11 had for ten years been using mildronate, a drug prescribed primarily for angina and other cardiac-related ills. Since January, the drug has been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency because among its effects is an increase in blood flow which can enhance athletic performance. Sharapova apparently missed the agency directive sent to all players in December 2015 that announced this newly banned drug; she tested positive for mildronate and was disqualified from playing at Indian Wells. The media, particularly Tennis Channel and ESPN, doggedly analyzed Sharapova’s performances and discussed advantages she may have gained from using mildronate. Commentators also, but with less ceremony, listed those Sharapova sponsors that deserted her very quickly upon the breaking news.

With such comprehensive coverage of Sharapova’s predicament, what possible undercurrent could the media have missed and how did it relate to Sharapova’s drug use and sponsorships? In a word: Nike!

Nike was one of the first of many sponsors (e.g., Tag Heuer, Evian, Avon, Porsche) to run for cover when news of Sharapova’s failed drug test was made public. So, what undercurrent did the media miss related to Nike and why do Nike’s repudiations relate to sexism? In a word, Tiger.

Think back to the 2009 holiday season when news broke about Woods’ numerous extramarital affairs. His sponsors did not abandon him immediately, but within a matter of weeks, Woods, like Sharapova, lost many sponsors (e.g., Tag Heuer, Gatorade, Gillette, Buick) but not Nike. Nike continued their association with Woods, lasting to this day.

Where were the media to ask questions related to Nike’s sponsorship decisions? Why did they not note the undercurrent and ask Nike about the rationale that fueled their loyalty to Woods, but did not extend it to Sharapova? Is it even thinkable that taking a performance-enhancing drug “inadvertently” (as claimed by Sharapova) is worse than serial infidelity, when many golf and tennis fans would find both to be repugnant? Only Nike knows their reasons for deserting Sharapova; no one else knows because the media did not inquire about it. Fans in a discerning world might like to know how a company with a 2017 target of realizing $7 billion in women’s spending — which will constitute 20% of their total annual revenues — can make such a questionable and possibly gender-biased decision.

Closing day brought the Ray Moore scandal. Moore was a professional player of little note and no consequence between 1968 and 1983, but gained notability as one of the founders and eventual chief executive officer of the Indian Wells tournament. At a breakfast meeting prior to the women’s final match, Moore expressed his beliefs that, among other things, women’s players ride the coattails of the men, and if he was a woman player, he would go down on his knees nightly and be thankful that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born because they have carried the game. Media, even non-sports media, covered Moore’s comments in depth. Stories in traditional and posts within modern social media universes expressed outrage and disgust over Moore’s archaic ideals. So, what undercurrents did the media miss in the Moore disgrace? In a word, men!

Not only were Moore’s insults obviously degrading and dismissive to those women players who rank among the best athletes in history, his opinion about Federer and Nadal carrying the game is an insult to the other men on the tour. Federer, and particularly Nadal of late, are not carrying the game and they never actually did. While they may have been among the most visible of recent players, plenty of others have dominated tournaments as well. Why did the media not seek opinions from champions such as Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Stan Wawrinka who have dominated Federer and Nadal for the past few years. Moore’s comments were not just offensive to the women players. His version of sexism offended every player regardless of gender, except Federer and Nadal.

Moore learned the consequences of antiquated ignorance expressed in a modern world within three days of the tournaments’ conclusion. He resigned as Indian Wells’ CEO, and as the controversy is ongoing, it is the media’s obligation to discover the reasons for his retreat. Could Moore not face the personal significance of his comments or was his resignation forced by inside and outside sources? It would be nice to know that story.

A final thought for consideration: Ray Moore played on the men’s professional tennis tour for 15 years.  In that time, he managed to win eight doubles titles, none of them a major, playing with 16 different partners. This was during the tennis boom of King, Evert, Laver, and Connors. It was the era when dedicated tennis beat reporters emerged and media coverage of the game flourished. Yet, few besides the most faithful of tennis aficionados heard of Ray Moore then or now … speaking of riding coattails.

A Sad Chapter Ends… or Does It?

By Dr. Nancy E. Spencer

On Friday, March 11, 2016, Venus Williams made her return to Indian Wells, facing Japan’s Kurumi Mara in a first-round singles match. It had been 15 years since Venus last played in the tournament, and she received a warm welcome as reflected by her broad smile in the photo below.?

In March 2001, when Venus last appeared at Indian Wells, she was scheduled to meet her sister Serena in the semifinals. As it was reported by most media sources, Venus defaulted just moments before she was to have played Serena. Tennis writer Joel Drucker (2009), wrote that “four minutes before her match against Serena, Venus pull(ed) out with tendinitis. Players usually notify officials that they will be unable to compete at least 30 minutes before a match so organizers can make contingency plans” (para. 13).

Serena related a different version of this story in her autobiography, where she wrote that during Venus’ quarter-final match against Elena Dementieva, she was dehydrated and started to cramp; she also hurt her knee and questioned whether she would be able to play in the semifinals against Serena (Williams & Paisner, 2009). On the morning of their scheduled semifinal, “Venus checked in with the tour trainer and told him she didn’t think she could play” (Williams & Paisner, 2009, p. 64). According to the rules, the trainer needed to give his approval before Venus could officially withdraw. The trainer was then supposed to consult with the tournament director who would typically schedule another match in its place. [This part is confirmed by Drucker’s statement above].

Checking in with tour officials was an especially important step since Venus and Serena were scheduled to play on live TV (on ESPN) before a crowd that eagerly anticipated the “rare tennis treat” (2001, p. 3C) of seeing the sisters play each other for only the sixth time in their professional careers. There was clearly a lot riding on whether or not Venus and Serena played that match. Yet, according to Serena, the trainer “kept telling Venus to hold off on making any kind of final decision” (Williams & Paisner, 2009, p. 65).

Two hours before the match was slated to begin, Venus again told officials that she would not be able to play, but still no announcement was made that she was withdrawing. It was not until five minutes before the match was to start that a tournament official finally “announced to the packed stadium that Venus was withdrawing due to injury” (Williams & Paisner, 2009, p. 67). Needless to say, the timing of the announcement could not have been worse and fans unleashed their anger toward Venus since she was made to appear as the culprit who withdrew at the last minute.

Two days after Venus’ default in the semifinals, Serena played in the final against the Belgian Kim Clijsters. When Venus and her father entered the Stadium to watch the final, fans responded by booing vociferously. Richard Williams proclaimed that a dozen fans in the stands used racial slurs and one fan yelled that he would “skin him alive” (Smith, 2001, p. 3C). According to some sources, fans were upset not only because of the late default, but also because they had the impression that Richard, was responsible for orchestrating the outcomes of their matches. Dementieva, whom Venus defeated in the quarterfinals, had even suggested in her press conference that she thought their father Richard would decide who would win their semifinal match (Drucker, 2009). A headline in the National Enquirer also suggested that Richard ordered Serena to lose to Venus in the 2000 Wimbledon semifinals. This further fueled the impression of match-fixing.

Aside from such accusations about match-fixing, there has never been any concrete evidence to confirm that this is anything more than speculation. In fact, Bart McGuire who was then CEO of the WTA Tour, issued a statement on March 16, 2001, saying that “The tour is aware of the assertions being circulated regarding Venus and Serena Williams’ head-to-head matches. We have seen no evidence to support those assertions, and both players have denied them” (Drucker, 2009, para. 29).

On March 23, 2001, Venus addressed the role of the press in fueling the story about what happened at Indian Wells. When asked about the crowd’s response at Indian Wells, Venus said that she didn’t always understand the press, but she understood that they wanted a big story and they were “interested in selling papers” (Drucker, 2009, para. 49).Indian Wells’ Tournament Director Charlie Pasarell addressed the question posed to Venus about whether it was unfair of the crowd to respond as they did. Pasarell reported that he cringed “when all that stuff was going on,” adding that “it was unfair for the crowd to do that” (Drucker, 2009, para. 51).

At the beginning of Drucker’s (2009) article, the editor noted that “the controversy surrounding Venus and Serena Williams’ decision not to play at Indian Wells has been composed of rumors, conjecture and  confusing comments about racism and match fixing” (para. 1). While it may be difficult to make sense of all that has been reported and recorded by the press about Indian Wells over the last 15 years, what happened there in 2001 was enough to make the Williams’ sisters decide not to play in the tournament for the past 14-15 years. I vividly remember watching that match and was embarrassed by the vitriol spewed toward Venus, Serena and their father Richard. I have always understood their decision not to play at Indian Wells. While I applaud their willingness to forgive and move on, I question if that chapter is truly over if we have not fully addressed the underlying impulse for the crowd’s (mis)behavior at Indian Wells in 2001.

References

Drucker, J. (2009, March 11). What happened at Indian Wells? ESPN.com. Retrieved from http://espn.go.com/sports/tennis/columns/story?id=3952939&columnist=drucker_joel

Rare tennis treat: Williams vs. Williams. (2001, March 15). USA Today, p. 1C.

Smith, D. (2001, March 26). Williams decries fans as racist. USA Today, p. 3C.

Williams, S., & Paisner, D. (2009). On the line. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.

Media Dialogues about ‘Race’ in Super Bowl 50

Dr. Nancy E. Spencer
February 7, 2016
The time between January 24 and February 7, 2016 may seem like “the longest two weeks of the NFL season”  (Rosenthal, 2016, para. 1). However, during those two weeks, the media manages to construct story lines that generate plenty of hype. The lead-up to Super Bowl 50 was no exception. On Thursday, January 28, Cam Newton, Quarterback of the Carolina Panthers kick-started one conversation with his response to a question about why he had taken so much heat for his celebratory behavior on the field. Newton responded by saying, “I’m an African-American quarterback that scares people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to” (Samuel, 2016, para. 4). Cam’s statements fanned the controversy that had begun earlier in the season. Most of the criticism stemmed from his style of celebration that consisted of dabbing; some parents characterized his dances as “arrogant struts” and “pelvic thrusts” (Samuel, 2016, para. 9).
Despite teaching in a Sport Management program, I must confess that I did not watch a lot of football this season. Being a Browns’ fan does that to you. But I did catch some of the play-offs and saw what has become a tradition whenever Newton scores a touchdown. In this case, he awarded it to a young girl in the stands. I was so enamored by the spontaneous expression on her face that I took the photo below and posted it on my new Instagram account:
IMG_20160117_133933
Later that week, I heard Cam’s statement followed by ensuing conversations on various media outlets. On First Take, Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless navigated the thorny terrain of racial dialogue that can become contentious. In their conversation, Skip carefully outlined his ‘credentials’ as if to suggest that he should in no way be construed as ‘racist’ in what he was about to say. In fact, he took so much time emphasizing that he was not a racist that I cannot remember what he said about Cam’s statement.
Several days before Cam made the statement (above), Stephen A. Smith speculated that Newton would be the “villain” of Super Bowl 50 and that most of America would “be rooting for the fairy tale ending for Peyton Manning” (Miller, 2016, para. 5). Smith emphasized that his prediction had nothing to do with race. Rather, he suggested that it was just about people wanting a happy ending for Peyton; and besides, he added, “people are annoyed with Cam and the Superman pose and all this other stuff” (Miller, 2016, para. 10).
After watching countless conversations about Cam Newton that tried to convince it was not about race, how are we to have a fruitful dialogue? Ironically, (or maybe not), the Daily Show (now featuring Trevor Noah) did one of the best takes on how we could understand the conversation started by Cam Newton. Maybe Comedy Central is where we need to convene our much-needed dialogue about race!
References
Miller, R. (2016, January 25). Will Cam Newton become Super Bowl 50 villain? Stephen A. Smith will ‘bet check’ it happens. NJ.com. Retrieved from http://www.nj.com/super-bowl/index.ssf/2016/01/is_cam_newton_super_bowl_50_villain_stephen_a_smith_will_bet_check_it_happens.html
Rosenthal, G. (2016, January 25). Seven big storylines heading into Super Bowl 50. NFL.com. Retrieved from http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000628271/article/seven-big-storylines-heading-into-super-bowl-50
Samuel, E. (2016, January 28). Cam Newton: ‘I’m an African-American QB that scares people.’ The Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/cam-newton-african-american-qb-scares-people-article-1.2511614

Greg Hardy is Back in the NFL But Has He Changed?

Bernadette Compton is a PhD student (with an emphasis on sport) in American Cultural Studies at BGSU. She graduated with a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology from the University of Central Arkansas. She received her Master’s in Sport Psychology from Miami University (OH) where she first became interested in sports media writing. She spends most of her time watching, reading and writing about, and discussing any and all sports. Specifically, she is interested in the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and sports. Her main sport writer influence is Kate Fagan.

By Bernadette Compton

If you haven’t heard, Greg Hardy is back playing football, after serving a four game suspension for his relation to a 2014 domestic violence case. Back in 2014, Hardy was found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend, but his conviction was overturned when she failed to cooperate with the case. Hardy, former player for the Carolina Panthers, left Carolina as a free agent, and the Cowboys signed him to a one year deal this March. In the week leading up to his first game in over a year, Hardy met with the media for the first time since coming back from suspension (Moore, 2015). Here is part of that interview: http://www.dallascowboys.com/video/2015/10/06/greg-hardy-breaks-his-silence-after-suspension.

There are a few comments that many people addressed, especially with his recent domestic violence case. When asked if he was ready to start playing again, he responded with “I hope I come out guns blazing, I’m full of excitement and full of juice. I’m ready to go” (Martin, 2015, para. 4). While “guns blazing” is a common phrase used in sport, it is questionable for Hardy to use since he had thrown his girlfriend on a couch with at least four semi-automatic rifles (Moore, 2015). He also deflected a question about if he had remorse for his actions, and instead focused on how sorry he felt that he couldn’t be there for the team. At the end of the interview (not included in the above video), Hardy had this to say about heading to New England, “I love seeing Tom Brady, he’s cool as crap…. Have you seen his wife? I hope she comes to the game. I hope her sister comes to the game, all her friends come to the game. One of my favorite games of the year, guys” (Martin, 2015, para. 6). And when a reporter mentions Blake Bortles’ wife’s attractiveness, Hardy responded “Is she? This kind of information is important. That’s how I select my Pro Bowls” (Martin, 2015, para. 8).

Katie Nolan, host of a Fox Sports show called Garbage Time, voiced her concerns with Hardy’s comments, especially with those mentioned above. Here is Katie Nolan:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGrL39Q99sE

While many people agreed with her comments and how it seemed Hardy still shows no remorse for his previous action, many people disagreed with her. But instead of just stating their points, they instead were sexist towards Nolan, which is difficult to take when the main conversation with Hardy is his previous domestic violence case.

For example, some comments on Facebook found it appropriate to say she belongs in the kitchen and not talking about sports or sport related issues. This is a common occurrence in comments towards female sport announcers and journalists.

Another felt the need to make a sexual reference about Nolan, the below comment being the cleanest comment regarding this reference.

And finally, Greg Hardy found it necessary to retweet the following tweet “Gonna buy his jersey now because of the wife comments @OverlordKraken go boys!!”

There were many other comments and tweets on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook involving the same sort of language towards Nolan, even using extreme vulgar language regarding her looks and what she should be doing instead of talking sports. These comments and tweets came from both women and men.

This language towards female sport announcers and journalists is very common. Jane McManus, a sport journalist for espnW, also received comments about being in the kitchen when her article on Greg Hardy was published (McManus, 2015).

In the MLB, Jessica Mendoza, the first female announcer for an MLB postseason game, also received remarks about being on air (Rogers, 2015):

In a recent Sports Illustrated article on women in sport and social media, this language towards women is very real (Dicaro, 2015): http://www.si.com/cauldron/2015/09/27/twitter-threats-vile-remarks-women-sports-journalists?utm_source=The+Daily+Rally&utm_campaign=39a87457a0-The_Daily_Rally_20150929&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8529cab2df-39a87457a0-128054941

Lack of respect towards women in sport and social media is still an issue. Women are sexualized, viewed as objects, and constantly receiving comments using vulgar language. We see this not only in comments on articles, but in magazines, commercials, and discussions on blogs about the typical “beautiful” female athlete. So while women have made great strides in sports, there is still a long way to go to gain respect as a sport fan and journalist.

References

Dicaro, J. (2015, October 1). Threats. Vitriol. Hate. Ugly truth about women in sports and social media. Sport Illustrated. Retrieved from http://www.si.com/cauldron/2015/09/27/twitter-threats-vile-remarks-women-sports-journalists?utm_source=The+Daily+Rally&utm_campaign=39a87457a0-The_Daily_Rally_20150929&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8529cab2df-39a87457a0-128054941

Martin, J. (2015, October 8). No apologies from Greg Hardy as he talks about Tom Brady’s wife. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/08/us/nfl-greg-hardy-returns/

McManus. J. (2015, October 9). Greg Hardy’s comments make a mockery of NFL change efforts. espnW.com. Retrieved from http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/article/13838832/greg-hardy-comments-make-mockery-nfl-change-efforts

Moore, D. (2015, October 7). Suspension over, Cowboys DE Greg Hardy meets the media: Here’s what we found out. The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved from http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-cowboys/headlines/20151006-moore-suspension-over-cowboys-de-greg-hardy-meets-the-media-here-s-what-we-found-out.ece

Rogers, K. (2015, October 7). Criticized for being a ‘woman announcer,’ Jessica Mendoza shines anyway. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/08/sports/criticized-for-being-a-woman-announcer-jessica-mendoza-shines-anyway.html?_r=0