Controversy erupted last week over comments regarding female tennis players and their body types.
BBC radio host John Inverdale remarked on Wimbledon winner Marion Bartoli’s looks by saying: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker? You’ll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight.’”
Inverdale and BBC apologized.
Also last week, The Daily Mail reported comments attributed to former WTA player Annabel Croft that criticized Serena Williams’ body.
Which raises a question: Is it ever appropriate to comment on an athlete’s body type? What about an athlete’s looks?
It doesn’t seem to bother the entertainment media, judging by the supermarket tabloids and magazines.
It’s a complicated subject. Too much description of an athlete can amount to sexism. At the same time, sometimes size can be considered a compliment. Take, for example, the column I wrote on Utah running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala in 1995.Then there was the piece I did in 1992 on the search for size in the NBA.
Were those out of line?
As far as I can tell, size and weight comments depend on the context. Conditioning matters in pro sports, so remarking on a players’ size is usually fair game. Thus, the time I mentioned a weight clause in Antoine Carr’s contract. It was relevant.
But commenting on the attractiveness of an athlete? Much more complicated.It can add texture to a profile story, but other times it can be nothing more than meanness.
Leave your comments or vote in the poll below to let me know where to draw the line.