Equality in sport is (perhaps) viewed as a grey area for many; one where some will remain tight lipped in fear of upsetting the usual PC codes that are crippling society.
Freedom of speech is a wonderful part of life, yet sometimes there are a few who believe this tool is replaced by ignorance and naivety; true in some cases, but an opinion is an opinion.
However, where genuine ignorance is clearly on show can be witnessed through the likes of John Inverdale. A figure in broadcasting, ‘respected’ and who has the platform to millions, yet still delivers backwards and ill-judged comments in the media… choose your pick from exhibit A, B and C:
“I just wonder if her dad did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe ‘listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker’,”
— On 2013 Wimbledon winner, Marion Bartoli
“‘Lumbers off like a character from The Jungle Book’”
— On Nick Kyrgios; complaints were made for ‘casual racism’
“I don’t know exactly how au fait with the rules Kate [Middleton] is, but I assume she must have been struggling a bit in the last 20 minutes.”
— On Kate Middleton’s rugby knowledge
Such thoughtless remarks can be considered as ‘casual racism’, and forms of sexism; an appalling use of freedom of speech.
However, John McEnroe has recently been criticised as ‘sexist’ for his comments around Serena Williams; the pundit has stated how Williams is:
“The best female player ever… [but against men it would be an] entirely different story”.
McEnroe reiterated that if Williams was in the men’s category, the 23-time Grand Slam winner would be “700th in the world”.
The comments have received huge backlash, particularly from Williams herself, who responded on Twitter with:
“Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based,”
Dmitry Tursunov, ranked 701st in the world, has himself weighed into the argument by supporting McEnroe, stating that he would back himself to see off a challenge from Williams.
With such a conversation happening, people have pointed towards a degrading of the women’s game, and ill-measured comments from a huge figure head in the sport.
However, as McEnroe has stated, it is purely a physicality factor; it’s not fighting against women in tennis – or sport in general – that men would be so dominant in this sense; it is purely science.
If tennis rewinds back to the 1998 debacle of Karsten Braasch versus the Williams sisters; the then-ranked 203rd seed, Braasch, defeated Serena 6-1, and Venus 6-2; supposedly after a ’round of golf and a couple of shandies’ before the match.
McEnroe’s comments are not sexist – and they are certainly not purposefully ignorant like Inverdale – but measured remarks around the human body and science.