I don’t normally write about men’s tennis, but sometimes there are things happening on the men’s side that impact the women’s game. Most of the time it is about the issue of equal prize money, which often reflects the sexism and misogyny that permeate tennis coverage by men who grew up in an era when men dominated in professional tennis and the women’s game was an afterthought.
Unless you were living under a rock the recent exposing of white supremacist beliefs espoused by some male American tennis players has found its way into women’s tennis. Ever since the election of Donald Trump as President, some tennis fans, who have long held the view that most of the white men that play professional tennis are racists and misogynists, have had their concerns confirmed by the writings and commentary espoused via social media by John Isner, Ryan Harrison and now Tennys Sandgren.
Tennys Sandgren, by dint of his run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, had his whole life exposed for the world to see. He was finally asked about his beliefs and his penchant for following alt-right and white supremacists on Twitter. In addition, in 2013, he tweeted about the Greatest of All Time, Serena Williams (post screencap here)
Someone needs to tell Mr. Sandgren that when you come for Serena, you basically take on all of tennis. I will not use this medium to defend Ms. Serena Jameka Williams, first of her name, because goodness me the woman is quite capable of doing that all on her own as she has been doing all her life.
As a case in point, Mr. Sandgren chose to issue a general apology today and Ms. Williams responded https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js“>in kind.
Lack of Media Training
What I wish to address is the clear lack of PR training that seems to go on in men’s tennis. Gone apparently are the days when media training seemed to be an essential tool in selling men’s tennis. Today, you find all kinds of views being espoused by all and sundry. It used to be that one would only know a racist by their behaviour, but through social media these men openly declare their racist, homophobic, and sexist views through their interactions with those holding such views. It has become another space for players to reveal themselves.
This morning (24 January), John Isner labelled people who cite racism, sexism and homophobia as victims. This is the same John Isner who felt betrayed because people in New York City chose to cheer for Frenchman Gael Monfils in a match against him. To compound that issue, his good friend, Mr. Sandgren felt the need to declare that New York City, the greatest City (apart from Kingston, Jamaica) that was ever built, probably should not have the privilege of hosting a Grand Slam event. Who is the victim in this scenario?
The world has been watching what has been happening in the United States, a country previously defined by its generosity of spirit as it welcomed people with open arms, begin to close its borders. Men, ugly inside and outside, whose families have benefitted from the largesse of immigrants from countries who helped to build that great nation are suddenly making policies that benefit only people of a certain colour.
Tennys Sandgren traces his roots back to South Africa, a country so steeped in apartheid and racial segregation that once the back of that oppressive regime was broken, most white people who still believed that black people were inferior to white people and that apartheid was God given made their way to places like the United States, Canada, and England. I can tell you first hand that some have tried to make their home in the Caribbean, but without success. These people espouse a doctrine and a belief that is an anathema to social equality. Yet, they have found comfort in espousing these views in certain corners.
While many who cover tennis continues to make excuses for Tennys Sandgren, citing his age etc (hello Nick Kyrgios), they are also revealing their feelings about equality. It is important for all of us to listen very keenly to the excuses that are being made about Mr. Sandgren and his social media leanings. It is important for us to listen very keenly as journalists try to construct a narrative of excuses for a young man who clearly grew up in a home that lacked diversity and an understanding of its value. We need to take note as they defend a man who felt it was ok to denigrate minorities on a social media platform and then retreat into talks about his Christian beliefs and about following Jesus’ teachings when his beliefs were challenged.
Well, Mr. Sandgren, let me tell you about Jesus, because I am also a Christian. I am not just a warmer of benches on Sundays, but I follow the teachings of Christ to the letter. The Jesus that I know and love and which many people, including Serena Williams, know and love were taught to love everybody, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin. We love all equitably. If you wish to know that Jesus, you are welcome to come to my church and join us so that you too can know this Jesus.
Back to the Tennis
I missed last night’s match with Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova but I intend to watch it today. I have no idea what happened but I am sure that Karolina Pliskova and her coach are also wondering what happened.
In the other quarter final, Angelique Kerber seems to be finding her groove. Madison Keys had no answer, but it was good to see her smiling even during her loss. It can’t have been a happy outing for her. Caroline Wozniacki suffered another scare when it took her 3 sets to take out Carla Suarez-Navarro and Elise Mertens absolutely demolished Elina Svitolina. Svitolina has cited a hip injury for her loss, but we all know that even if she didn’t have that hip injury she was being outplayed from every part of the court. A good hip would not have saved her.
I will be back later today with my semifinal write up and Spin’s Picks.