BNP Paribas Open CEO Raymond Moore made comments before Sunday's women's finals at the tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., that offended some women tennis players, including Serena Williams and Billie Jean King.
"I think the WTA [Women's Tennis Association] -- you know, 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," Moore said, according to multiple reports. "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."
The 69-year-old Moore, a former touring pro from South Africa, later apologized for his comments, but that may not have satisfied everybody.
When Williams was asked about Moore's comments following her loss to Victoria Azarenka in the women's finals, she said, "Obviously, I don't think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that. I think Venus [Williams], myself, a number of players have been .... if I could tell you every day how many people say they don't watch tennis unless they're watching myself or my sister, I couldn't even bring up that number. So I don't think that is a very accurate statement. I think there is a lot of women out there who are more ... are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways. I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate."
Williams dismissed the notion that Moore's words could have been misconstrued.
"Well, if you read the transcript, you can only interpret it one way. I speak very good English. I'm sure he does too," she said. "You know, there's only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man, which is not -- we, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn't have to drop to our knees at any point."
The remarks came as a surprise to Williams.
"Yeah, I'm still surprised, especially with me and Venus and all the other women on the tour that's done well," she said. "Last year, the women's final at the U.S. Open sold out well before the men. I'm sorry, did Roger play in that final or Rafa or any man play in that final that was sold out before the men's final? I think not.
"So I just feel like, in order to make a comment, you have to have history, and you have to have facts, and you have to know things. You have to know of everything. I mean, you look at someone like Billie Jean King, who opened so many doors for not only women's players but women's athletes in general. So I feel like, you know, that is such a disservice to her and every female -- not only a female athlete but every woman on this planet -- that has ever tried to stand up for what they believed in and being proud to be a woman."
In a Twitter response to Moore's comments, King said, "Disappointed in #RaymondMoore comments. He is wrong on so many levels. Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success."
Moore made other controversial comments.
After acknowledging that Williams might be the best women's player in history, Moore said, "I think the WTA have a handful -- not just one or two -- but they have a handful of very attractive prospects that can assume the mantle. You know, (Garbine Muguruza), Genie Bouchard. They have a lot of very attractive players. And the standard in ladies' tennis has improved unbelievably."
When asked whether he meant physical attractiveness or competitive attractiveness, Moore said, "I mean both. They are physically attractive and competitively attractive. They can assume the mantle of leadership once Serena decides to stop. I think they've got ... they really have quite a few very, very attractive players."
Moore issued a statement later Sunday, which read, "At my morning breakfast with the media, I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous. I am truly sorry for those remarks and apologize to all the players and WTA as a whole. We had a women's final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA. Again, I am truly sorry for my remarks."
Azarenka was not sure how she should react to Moore's apology.
"I'm trying not to think about it. ... I'm not going to bring somebody down. I'm just going to rise above that," Azarenka said. "Today, I think it was a great match. It was a great day for women's sport.
"Why can't we just be happy and enjoy and support each other? Because that's what the world is missing a little bit. It's the support towards each other. Not just bashing and, oh, who is prettier or who is this, who has more, who has less. Let's just take care of each other."