Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007
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photo by lindsay beyerstein
Wimbeldon goes for equal pay
Jed Leicester/Bloomberg News
France's Amelie Mauresmo won the women's
singles title at Wimbledon in 2006.
Wimbledon Agrees to Even Out Its Prize Money
By JULIET MACUR
Published: February 23, 2007
When the gates of the All England Club open for Wimbledon this summer, there will still be tentacles of ivy crawling up its stadium walls and players dressed pristinely in white. But, as club executives announced yesterday, at least one thing will change: The tournament will award equal prize money to men and women for the first time.
Wimbledon, the oldest of tennis’s four Grand Slam events, joins the United States Open and the Australian Open in handing out equal prize money to all male and female competitors for similar finishes. The United States Open has done so since 1973, the Australian Open since 2001.
The French Open gives equal prize money to only the men’s and women’s singles champions, a practice it began in 2006.
“I think it was definitely hard for them to change because of the culture and the psyche behind it, but I’m relieved that they finally got there,” said Billie Jean King, who won six singles titles at Wimbledon. “But remember, it’s not about the money, it’s about the message it sends to women and girls around the world.
“Every time we can change a benchmark like this, it helps people ask in their daily life, ‘Are we insisting on equality for our sons and daughters?’ So that makes it a very important moment in history.”
The decision reversed a custom at Wimbledon that started in 1968, when the Open era began and professionals started competing at the club. That year, King, the women’s singles champion, earned £750, while Rod Laver, the men’s champion, received £2,000.
That gap in prize money had narrowed over the years. Last year, the paycheck for Amélie Mauresmo, the women’s champion, was £625,000 (then worth $1.15 million). She made about 95 percent of the amount won by the men’s champion, Roger Federer, who earned £655,000 (then worth $1.2 million). The prize money for this year’s two-week tournament, which begins June 25, will be announced in April.
Several top women’s players applauded the move.
“I just feel that in the modern world with the modern thoughts, we all understand that everyone’s equal,” Venus Williams said at a news conference last night after her 7-6, 6-4 quarterfinal victory against Laura Granville at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championship in Memphis.
“So if someone else doesn’t choose to live in the modern world and do the right thing, then thank God that the majority of people in the All England Club do.”
Labels: equal pay, tennis