Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Talk about spin...

Any political campaign you can name has nothing on the Billie Jean King Cup introduction of Venus Williams, in which Williams was praised for "speaking out" on behalf of Shahar Peer.

Did I miss something? I distinctly heard Williams say that she and all players needed to consult with sponsors and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour before committing to any act regarding Peer's ban from Dubai. Yes, she said a few words about Peer when she received her trophy, and she would have been a complete fool if she hadn't. But saying those words while one is holding a huge check from the Dubai organizers is a somewhat cynical distortion of the concept of "speaking out."


Todd Spiker said...

On Sunday, when I was looking around to see if Venus had said anything in the ceremony about Peer, I ran into at least one article that began with praise for Williams for standing up for Peer. After the week that had preceded her words, I thought then that it was a patently absurd take on the situation, and it's even worse for BJK to do it.

I wonder what King's response would have been in the same situation if one of HER fellow players had been denied the ability to play an event because of their sex, religion or otherwise? Somehow I doubt that, in the 1960's or 1970's, that she would have taken the same look-out-for-the-sponsors, wait-a-week-to-give-any-sort-of-token-support course of action.

Diane said...

Well, many of her fellow players--the ones in her groundbreaking group--were told they would never play tennis again, but they formed the WTA, anyway. They stood up not only to the tennis organization, but to the male players, who were merciless (chief among them being Arthur Ashe, by the way) in their opposition to females getting paid for playing sports.

So no, King and Casals and the others would not have left Peer out to dry; they would have stood up for her, no matter what.

Todd Spiker said...

Precisely (I guess I WAS sort of skipping over the fact that she HAD faced similiar circumstances, huh?). Oops. :)

Anyhow, I suspect/hope that in 2009, in the exact circumstances that the players face now, she'd likely follow the same course. Trying to keep a hand in both the more fair-minded ("semi-idealistic?") and "heavily-sponsored" worlds, as King does nowadays, might be at the root of some of her recent inconsistencies (as with her talk of ending the Williams sisters' I.W. boycott), which while understandable, is still a bit lamentable. Even more reason no one should ever forget that any true women's tour (in tennis, or in the sports/leagues that have since followed) might never have come into existence if not for King & Co.'s actions when it mattered most.

I'm trying to remember, didn't Ashe later apologize to King for what he'd said? At the very least, his thinking eventually evolved.

Speaking of Casals, that reminds me of a quote from her that I love. When told that some people consider female athletes unladylike, she said, "If people say we're unfeminine, well, I say screw 'em."

So great on so many levels. :)

Diane said...

I don't know if Ashe ever apologized to King or the other women for his comments--I suspect he did. I do know that King credits Ashe's wife for turning around his thinking about women. It is always so sad when the oppressed join the oppressors, but it is a fact of our cultural life. Most do not evolve, as Ashe did.

Rosebud was great. I was really happy to see her at the big bash in Charleston last year.

dearg said...

Hi Diane,

I have read quite a good article by Peter Bodo in tennis.com about the event in MSG.
I don't know what your take on Bodo is, but in the article he seems to be tip toeing through the tulips not to offend Billy Jean but still trying to get across that she's not the second coming.

Diane said...

Dearg, I found Bodo's piece a bit too experiential for my taste: as over-the-top as the event he's criticizing for being over-the-top. And I also don't think he has much place writing about sexism.

On the other hand, I share his discomfort with the entire contrivance, and with the idolatry of Billie Jean King, who--in the past year--has given many of us who admired her a lot of reason to question her. I have always disagreed with King about several things, but even I didn't see what was coming from her this year.

Billie Jean King brought us World Team Tennis, which I can barely watch, it is such a travesty of the game. The event in Madison Square Garden had that same flavor--lots of rah-rah, not much real tennis.