Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon looks back at some controversies of the past year in women’s tennis.
What is it that they say? That if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all?
Obviously, this is advice that’s passed six feet over the head of two relative pillars of tennis’s history in Margaret Court and Ilie Nastase.
The former, you might recall, was in the news again last month when Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and a slew of others (and basic decency) called for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed after the ex-champion had made a whole of bunch of idiotic and bigoted comments about tennis, lesbians and transgender children.
In Court’s case, the comments of the ex-player were the end all be all, but not so for Nastase. The 70-year-old from Romania last week saw his two bans from tennis reduced by 8 months but his fine doubled. Nastase had had, and we’ll make this pun only the one time we swear, quite the nasty streak at a Fed Cup tie last year, berating a team captain and opposing player and saying something vile about Serena Williams. He had been deservedly punished for it, and has now seen his appeal work somewhat. More money to pay, less time away. Meh.
You might have picked up reading the above that we included as little details as possible on the specifics on the things that Court and Nastase did or said. If you really wish to know what they have done and did, feel free to head over to the web browser of your choice and you’ll read all you need to know there. But we tend to frown, here, on shedding more light than is absolutely necessary on idiocy.
Our point here is that both Court and Nastase behaved inappropriately or said vile things and that maybe one day we could just get rid of them? Tennis in general, and women’s tennis in particular, don’t need them.
We live in a world where everyone’s entitled to their opinion, this much is true. But if you voice said opinion in such a way that it reaches my ears and that I believe so, I’m entitled to voicing my opinion that I believe you’re full of shit. It’s the same thing after all, isn’t it? In Nastase’s case, if all he had done was really to voice his opinion then he in all likelihood wouldn’t have been punished, would he? But he acted a fool as well.
But of course, sometimes an opinion can, or should be, problematic all on its own due to the role you represent. Margaret Court, of course, is a 75-year-old woman but she’s also become an institution by now. She represents tradition and traditional Christian values, or something like what she thinks are Christian values, and once upon a time played tennis.
But she’s also an institution and, as such, can and should be discredited if and when it’s necessary. At some point, a person’s life work does crumble when said person repeatedly discredits it. Sure, Court was a great champion who won a whopping 24 Grand Slam titles in her playing career, but should tennis keep associating itself with a woman who spews vileness and preaches bigotry? The tennis-player-turned-minister does it in the name of Christianity, but we all know what it’s about. Should tennis keep associating itself with a woman who was one of its brightest starts if this star is now one of its ugliest scars?
If we could just, you know, stop empowering them and hold them accountable until the very end, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
This isn’t a problem confined to tennis exclusively, far from it, but we’ve seen it happen in tennis as well.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG