Michelle Obama used the occasion of attending the US Open showing her support for Coco Gauff alongside husband Barack Obama to add her voice to those advocating for equal pay in tennis.
While the sport has been lauded for efforts to ensure that female athletes are well paid, the gap between certain events staged at the same venues has raised eyebrows.
At all Grand Slams, the prize money and other pay allotments are equal.
The US Open had invited Michelle Obama to speak at an event honouring Billie Jean King and her work is seeing the prize money at the American Grand Slam equalized 50 years ago.
In 1972, when King won the U.S. Open, she received $10,000 in prize money, which was $15,000 less than what Ilie Nastase, the winner in the men’s division, received. She vowed not to participate the next season and stated that no other ladies would either and amped up the pressure on the powers that be in tennis.
King would be instrumental in securing a new sponsor for the event that would eventually help make up the shortfall.
“Billie Jean teaches us that when things lie in the balance, we all have a choice to make,” Michelle Obama said. “We can either wait around and accept what we’re given. We can sit silently and hope someone else fights our battles. Or we can make our own stand.
“We can use whatever platforms we have to speak out and fight to protect the progress we’ve made, and level the playing field for all of our daughters and their daughters.”
Obama believes the issue goes for beyond making sure that pay is equal at the highest level but ensuring that there is equity up and down the game.
“Even today, there are far too many tournaments out there that still need to give equal pay to women. … Let us remember all of this is far bigger than a champion’s paycheck,” Michelle Obama said Monday. “This is about how women are seen and valued in this world.”
While three of tennis’ top ten earners are women and seven of the ten highest paid female athletes in the world are WTA Tour stars there is still a large disparity in pay packages at certain events.
Coco Gauff and Novak Djokovic both won championships at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati a week ago, but Gauff only took home $454,500 while Djokovic took home $1,019,335 in prize money.
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