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Tennis News • The ATP Must Act – And Act Soon – On Gimelstob

epa01047443 Justin Gimelstob of the US reacts during his singles match against Andy Roddick the first day of play at Wimbledon tennis championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, Britain, 25 June 2007. EPA/ANDY RAIN EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO COMMERCIAL SALES

 

Editors note: We are reposting this story to show we stood on the “side of the right” for the ATP and TENNIS prior to Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka speaking up • and Gimelstob finally stepping down.

 

 

By Alix Ramsay

 

Slowly but surely, the good and the great are having their say. Martina Navratilova would not vote for Justin Gimelstob if she were involved in the up-coming election at the ATP. Amelie Mauresmo is of a similar view. And now Andy Murray has come out and called for Gimelstob to be removed from the board of the men’s tour.

 

As the Sunday Telegraph in London revealed in an exclusive, Murray said: “I don’t see how, with everything that has gone on, it’s possible for him to remain in a position of authority or management at the ATP right now.”

 

Yet the ATP itself is dithering. The only message from the organisation came last week, a wishy-washy fudging of the issue in an official statement.

 

It read: “The decision was taken to let the judicial process run its course before any judgement was made on his future, so with that process complete this is now a subject for review by the board and/or the player council.

 

“As a related matter, the election for the role of the next Americas player representative on the ATP board – the position currently held by Gimelstob – will take place as scheduled on Tuesday, 14 May, in Rome.”

 

So the powers that be, who may or may not be the players or may or not be the board, can “review” the situation. But what is there to review? Gimelstob pleaded ‘no contest’ to a charge of battery and, given that ‘no contest’ is effectively a plea of guilty, he was accordingly found guilty. In most walks of life, such a turn of events would lead to the guilty party losing their job. But not, it seems, if that party works in tennis.

 

While the removal men pack up the ATP’s worldly goods and possessions and relocate their premises from Monte Carlo and Ponte Vedra to Sodom and Gomorrah (where, incidentally, the locals are now seriously concerned about the house prices), those in charge shuffle their feet and whistle quietly. They can only hope that, come election day, Gimelstob is voted off the board thus saving anyone in authority from making a decision.

 

Every organisation has its rules and procedures and in the case of the ATP, those state that Gimelstob, as one of three elected player representatives on the six-man board, could be removed if the rest of the board voted unanimously for such a move. Yet one of those board members is David Egdes, an executive at the Tennis Channel – the network that employs Gimelstob as a commentator. Egdes is also a personal friend of Gimelstob.

 

The player council, a body sitting directly below the board and which elected Gimelstob to the board in the first place, could also vote to remove him. Led at the moment by Novak Djokovic, the player council failed to vote in such a way last year when they “reviewed” the situation after Gimelstob was charged. No one is putting money on them doing the decent thing this time around.

 

And, oh look, there are elections coming up soon so let’s just wait and see what happens.

 

But while governments, institutions and companies follow their regular rules to the letter, they can all respond to emergencies. There is an international incident while parliament is in recess; parliament is recalled immediately. Get yourselves back to the office and sort this out.

 

Or perhaps Smithers from accounts has relocated himself and the company’s finances to Panama leaving behind nothing but the petty cash box which contains three buttons, one bottle cap and a note from the milkman saying you still owe him £2.57. Call an extraordinary meeting of the shareholders – something has to be done. And done now.

 

The ATP? They will leave their elected representatives to “review” the situation and then hope that there are enough people left with a backbone and some moral fibre to do the decent thing and vote in the right way on May 14.

 

And all the while, Gimelstob remains as one of the six public faces on the ATP board. One of the public faces of men’s tennis.

 

The player council will, apparently, discuss the matter in Madrid next week (yes, we are going and, yes, we are looking forward to it). But that the player council, that same group of men who engineered the power shift at the top of the game in the hope of getting more money and leverage for themselves, should be left to decide Gimelstob’s fate seems mad. Several members of the council are his friends, several more see him as a way of getting what they want from the sport – the money and power – and so their views can hardly been regarded as objective.

 

On social media, it is hard to find a voice in support of Gimelstob. From players, coaches, journalists, pundits and fans, the message is loud and clear: Gimelstob has no part to play in tennis. Not anymore.

 

No one cares about Gimelstob as an individual (he is a rich man and losing his job at the ATP will hardly take food from his table); people care about the sport of tennis.

 

To have a man who has been found guilty of beating another man in a “violent, unprovoked attack” (in the words of the judge who presided over the hearing) and who carried out that act in front of the man’s wife and two-year-old daughter – to have him seen to be involved in the running of men’s tennis is not good for the sport.

 

If most everyone in the general media and on social media can see it, how come no one at the ATP can do anything about it?

Justin Gimelstob of the USA returns the ball to compatriot Paul Goldstein during their first round match at the the NASDAQ-100 Open on Key Biscayne. Florida Wednesday 22 March 2006. EPA/ANDREAS SCHAAD

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