Let’s imagine the following scenario. You are the CEO of arguably the fifth biggest tennis event on the entire planet. Your event, like the four Grand Slams, features the best players from both the women’s and men’s game, as evidenced by the finals, which feature Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic.
Three of those four players have won multiple Grand Slams and are ubiquitous to the tennis world. Two of them are currently ranked number one. One transcends her sport and is known the world over simply by her first name. This is big. You have done your job, and so have the players.
So, on this final day, after almost two weeks of work, you hold a media session with the on-site press corps to discuss various matters surrounding your event. Again, this is a media session, and the whole thing is transcribed. Perfect chance to throw platitudes, talk about boring admin stuff and go watch the tennis, no?
Not if you’re Raymond Moore, the man who ran the PNB Paribas Open until late Monday night. Here’s what he said during that media session:
“[…] in my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride on the coattails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky.
If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”
Why would you do this? Doesn’t this quote break every rule of what a CEO should say about his or her own product? Why do it on the last day of your event? It’s hard to understand how a smart, extremely experienced man like Moore could think those comments were acceptable. Or how he couldn’t foresee that his seemingly off-the-cuff moment would overshadow the crowning day of his own event.
Not surprisingly, Moore’s comments kicked up a controversy, transcending the sport of tennis to such a degree that it was rather remarkable Moore was still employed at the close of business on Monday. Yet when the clock struck 9:05 p.m. PT at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Monday night, this happened:
Raymond Moore steps down as CEO and Tournament Director of the BNP Paribas Open https://t.co/r1ZViL2dhs
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 22, 2016
Moore’s departure – and current Indian Wells owner Larry Ellison’s statement on that departure – seemingly should have brought the whole ugly episode to an end. And it very well might have, except for what happened in another press event that took place on Sunday.
Novak Djokovic, the all-dominant ruler of the ATP Tour, sat down for his postmatch press conference after collecting his record fifth Indian Wells title. When asked to respond to Moore’s comments, he opened up a Pandora’s Box that many thought was already closed: