Sports might be the one niche in society where anyone, regardless of who they are or where they came from, can succeed. However, John McEnroe thinks that tennis is still not inclusive enough and remains a “white man’s game.”
The three-time Wimbledon champion and icon of the game went on the “Fresh Air” podcast with Dave Davies on Wednesday, where he made his statement that too few non-white athletes get a chance to play tennis because of how expensive it is.
“I feel like the sport is (suffering) still because it’s still considered sort of this, you know, it’s too expensive, that upper class,” McEnroe said. “The white man’s game that hasn’t given opportunity to enough people (who) you know, can’t afford to play the game.“
With all due respect to McEnroe, this claim just simply isn’t true.
Before the start of the U.S. Open, the final event in tennis’ Grand Slam tournaments, three non-white players were ranked in the top 26 on the men’s side: American Francis Tiafoe, Australian Nick Kyrgios, and Frenchman Gael Monfils (all but Monfils made it to the quarterfinals of the event, since the Frenchman withdrew before the event started due to a foot injury). On the women’s side, three non-white women appear in the top 25, and that number increases as you progress down the rankings.
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Furthermore, two of the greatest athletes in tennis history - male or female - are black, Venus and Serena Williams. Both grew up in the shadows of Compton, CA, a town that still wrestles with gang activity, violence, and high homicide rates. Yet between the two, they hold 14 women’s doubles Grand Slam titles, 3 Olympic gold medals as doubles teammates, 30 women’s singles Grand Slam titles (Venus has seven, Serena has 23), countless other records, have earned a combined $136,930,533 in prize money…you get the picture, they’ve accomplished a lot in their careers.
While the amount of non-white players in tennis might not be as large as the NBA or the NFL, it is still ridiculous to say that tennis is a sport reserved for rich, upper-class white people.
As long as interested athletes are given an equal and fair opportunity to succeed, then it is foolish to say that a sport is not inclusive enough because players more frequently have one type of skin color. Equal opportunity does not mean equal outcome - of winners, people involved in the sport, etc. -- a concept people at large seemingly don’t understand, including McEnroe.
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