opinion | Tennis needs to take a stand on accusations of domestic violence


Ashish Malhotra is a freelance journalist based in New York.

The recent success of Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios – who is playing this week at the Citi Open in the capital, as One of his notable names – Highlight the alarming situation in men’s tennis: the inability or unwillingness of its governing bodies and the mainstream media in tennis to adequately address accusations of domestic violence.

Kyrgios’ dazzling play and erratic outbursts on the court over the years have sparked an outpouring of interest on his part. fans And the criticsand most recently in Wimbledon final. But what onlookers may not know is that just before the Wimbledon quarter-finals, allegations surfaced that he had assaulted his ex-girlfriend. he is His court date For the case in Australia this month. (His lawyer, Kyrgios, said:He takes the claim seriously. “)

Kyrgios isn’t the only person on the tour involved in legal proceedings. two lesser known players, Nikoloz Basilashvili from Georgia And the Thiago Seboth Wild from BrazilThey were accused of physical assault against former partners. (They both have to reject The the allegations.)

But perhaps the most famous player in the scandal is German Alexander Zverevwhich has been arranged up to number 2 In the world.

When Zverev Won the gold medal At the Olympics last summer, some tennis fans got nervous. In late 2020, an ex-girlfriend accused Zverev of domestic violence, allegations that journalist Ben Rothenberg vividly described for racket magazine And the slate. (Zverev He said he’s innocent.)

All of these players deserve due process. But the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), which runs the men’s tour, has shown a worrying lack of urgency in addressing the charges – raising questions about the seriousness of domestic violence.

I have ATP There is no clear policy Describe what should happen when players face charges. The organization took more than a year Investigation launched into Zverev; The situation remains unresolved. Last month, ATP issued a statement on Kyrgios to Reuters, saying it was aware of the case against him but that it was “inappropriate to provide further comment” as legal proceedings continue.

That might be wise. But such flicks on the tip of the toes send an ugly message about the priorities of the people at the forefront of men’s tennis, who appear to be more concerned with the sport’s image than responsible for responding quickly to troubling claims. This means that elite players accused of misconduct continue to be unabashedly promoted by the sport – and they continue to go to court.

Many of the tennis modes will play along.

In the immediate lead up to the Wimbledon quarter-finals at Kyrgios on ESPN2, the main ESPN channel aired a clip of the deaf touting his outrageous technique — smashing racquets, verbally abusing the umpires and his “team” — and then cutting commentators laughing at them. Other ESPN analysts described Kyrgios as a “personality” who was “good for tennis” and went so far as to say that everything in his personal life “looks good”.

The coverage echoed many of those surrounding Zverev. During his first four games at the US Open last year, ESPN did not mention the domestic violence allegations. finally aired a clip of the accusations on Zverev’s quarter-final day; Once the match started, the issue was ignored. The journalist who interviewed Zverev for German outlet Bild took it upon himself to name the accusationsNonsense.

For some commentators – albeit not enough – this is unacceptable.

Katherine Whitaker, co-host of “The Tennis Podcast‘ He said ‘We should all feel uncomfortable’ watching Zverev play, and he did He lamented the failure of people in the tennis world Even to say the simple words ‘domestic violence is wrong.’

“It’s not that hard,” Whitaker said. But “we rarely hear it because everyone prefers it.”

Marie Carrillo, among the few who took a stand last year Leave her role as a commentator For the Laver Cup tournament, in which Zverev was playing, due to the event’s unwillingness to address questions of domestic violence.

“I don’t want to be a part of the silence”, Carrillo Tell The Tennis Podcast “Behind the Racquet”. “If you are calm, it indicates that you are an accomplice.”

Tennis can and should do so much more to prove that it is not complicit.

Broadcasters can provide better context on player issues out of court and forgo good interviews with players accused of domestic violence.

ATP can send a strong message about its values ​​by creating an appropriate code of conduct. Finally, organizations such as the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and the National Football League You have such icons. Although in some cases they have shorteningThey’ve also pushed officials to act: Only this year, following its own investigation, MLB Los Angeles Dodgers suspended pitcher Trevor Power for 324 games Because of allegations of sexual assault, although Los Angeles County attorney He did not follow up on the accusations. (Bauer denied the allegations and is appealing the league’s decision.)

Tennis continues to go smoothly. But fans, including those who watch the Citi Open, deserve to know more about the men who cheer them on. Tennis imagines itself as a high-end sport. Her quirks are a disgrace.

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