TEXT OF INTERVIEW
SCOTT JAGOW: It’s fair to say the people who run the Wimbledon tennis tournament are usually behind the times. For almost a hundred years, Wimbledon didn’t pay the players. Then in 1968, Billie Jean King got paid two-thirds less then men’s winner Rod Laver. Yesterday, Wimbledon said it’s finally gonna pay the women and men the same amount. I asked our business of sports commentator Diana Nyad her thoughts, and I got a surprising answer:
DIANA NYAD: As ardent a feminist as I am, and I’m out there voting for women to do anything they want. They wanna box? They should box. They wanna be the presidents of universities? Supreme Court justices? Yes! They should be there. But in tennis, the depth of field just is not there for the women yet. Like when Maria Sharapova comes down to play her first round at Wimbledon, she’s gonna be off that court in 45-50 minutes. She’s barely going to need to take her sweatshirt, sweatjacket off. When Rafael Nadal comes down to play his first match, very likely it’s gonna be a dog fight. First of all, the men play 3 out of 5 sets. They can often go five hours, legs trembling by the end and they gotta get up and play another five-round match perhaps in the second round. So by the end of a fortnight, when that guy raises that Wimbledon plate above his head, he has worked hard. And the women, you know, maybe have had, the champion anyway, has had maybe one or two times that she’s been pressed. So it really isn’t equal pay for equal work.
JAGOW: I bet you get a lot of flack for this.
NYAD: I have. You know through the years I’ve gotten a lot of hate mail, but I think that the women should play 3 out of 5 at the grand slams. You know, make endurance count.
JAGOW: Now but this is sports, and people don’t get paid by the hour.
NYAD: No that’s true, and when you come down to actual entertainment, I have seen lots of 5-set matches because the men must play 3 out of 5 at the grand slams that are boring as heck, so if one set’s gonna be boring, they’ve gotta play 3 out of 5, you are not even in the stands by the end of it.
JAGOW: Well do you think in the end this is about the men’s game versus the women’s game and that they’re equally entertaining and bringing the spectators out in the same amount?
NYAD: I do and I that the fans realize that the women are just as good at their brand of the game as the men are at their brand. In other words, in basketball, you know the WNBA is constantly criticized, ‘eh the women don’t play up above the rim, they’re slow, they don’t look good. . . ‘ Well they’re not slow, they’re just slow compared to Kobe Bryant. You don’t care if the serve’s going in 5 miles an hour slower. The point starts when two people are equal across a dramatic situation of a net. It doesn’t matter whether they’re 10-year-olds or whether they’re women or whether they’re men. That equal women’s match is absolutely as dramatic and as commanding of our attention and gives us as many thrills as an equal men’s match.
JAGOW: Alright well maybe we won’t get too much hate mail then.
NYAD: Oh God, I hope not.
JAGOW: Thanks Diana.
NYAD: Thank you.
JAGOW: Diana Nyad is our business of sports commentator.
As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.
Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.
Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.