Andy Murray spent his first day of the New Year in a way that will leave the rest of us wondering why we aren’t as fabulous as he is. In the New Year Honours List, the tennis star was given a knighthood in recognition of his stellar season, which included a Wimbledon title and an Olympic gold medal.
While it’s clear that Murray’s new title was most directly a result of his work on the court this past year, we think that his work off the court has been even more valuable. The tennis pro has always enjoyed proving the critics wrong, whether it came to his marriage, or his ability to be both a good father and a tennis champ. Because of this, it came as no surprise that he would become such a vocal proponent of gender equality within the sport.
Tennis players receive vastly disparate amounts of prize money based on their gender, with a median pay gap of $120,624 between women in the top 100 and their counterparts. In fact, the naming of the leagues speaks to this difference. The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) refers to the men’s organization, which did not allow female tennis professionals, thus the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) was created. The difference between the two titles is only a matter of one word: The men’s league is characterized by the word “professionals,” while the women’s league is merely distinguished by gender.
Murray has been an outspoken supporter of equal pay in his sport, especially in the last year. In a blog post for L’Equipe, he said, “Have I become a feminist? Well, if being a feminist is about fighting so that a woman is treated like a man, then yes, I suppose I have.”
Along with the vocal support for equal pay he presented in interviews and posts, Murray’s decision to hire a female coach spoke volumes about his acknowledgment of women’s value in the profession. Though he received criticism for this choice, Murray had a successful year in which he earned the titles of Sir and Number 1.
Though one player cannot change the problems in the tennis association, Murray’s contributions this past year have paved the way for more discussions of equal pay and the role of women in the sport. For this, we can look forward to 2017, and whatever else Sir Murray has up his sleeve.
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