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Serena Williams slams tournament director's comments
01:43 - Source: CNN

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Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore steps down

Moore made comments about women's role in tennis

CNN  — 

The tournament director of one of tennis’ most prestigious events has resigned after saying that female players should get “down every night on” their knees to thank some of their male counterparts.

Raymond Moore stepped down as the CEO and tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open, better known simply as Indian Wells, after making his comments on Sunday.

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“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,” he told reporters, referring to the organization that runs the women’s game. “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.”

Moore later apologized but the damage had been done and drew swift reaction. A day later, he was out of a job.

“Earlier today I had the opportunity to speak with Raymond Moore,” said BNP Paribas Open owner Larry Ellison. “Ray let me know that he has decided to step down from his roles as CEO and tournament director effective immediately. I fully understand his decision.”

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Ellison said he respected equality in sports, including equal prize money among genders and credited tennis legends like Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams and Serena Williams for paving the way.

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King had tweeted that Moore’s comments were wrong on so many levels. Serena Williams had also criticized the comments and pointed to last year’s U.S. Open, when the women’s final sold out before the men’s for the first time.

“I’m sorry, did Roger play in that final?” Williams asked. “Or Rafa, or any man, play in that final that was sold out before the men’s final? I think not.”

Several tennis organizations including the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the United States Tennis Association had also condemned Moore’s comments.

The sexism controversy brewed further when Novak Djokovic weighed in about equal prize money.

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“I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches,” the world’s No. 1 player said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.”

Indian Wells awarded $1.03 million apiece in prize money to the male and female singles winners, which went to Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka on Sunday.

“I’m proud to say that it is now a decade-long tradition at our tournament at Indian Wells, and all the major tennis tournaments, to pay equal prize money to both the women and the men,” tournament owner Ellison said in a statement.

CNN’s Kevin Dotson and Matias Grez contributed to this report.