Recently, Venus Williams decided to skip the obligatory press conference after loss at the French Open. The authorities fined her $3000. Frankly, I think they should have fined her $3,000,000.
I have nothing against Venus Williams and she is an excellent athlete. But she is kidding herself if she thinks she is in the sports business. She is in the media business. The vast majority of her fabulous riches does not come from tournament prize money derived from ticket paying tennis fans. Her wealth comes from TV ad and sponsorship revenue.
If she wants to be a “pure” athlete, then she needs to get in a time capsule and go back to playing when Billie Jean King was making $10,000 a year on the circuit. (Please note, I make the same arguments to football players who have decided it’s smart to skip press conferences.)
Today’s superstar athletes need to realize that showing up to speak to the media isn’t an extra or a luxury, it is in fact, one of the key elements of their job. Many pro athletes already make more money in one day than some people make in a lifetime. Is it really too much to ask for them to show up for one more hour of “work” answering a few questions?
While I understand it isn’t fun to answer questions after facing an embarrassing loss, nobody expects Venus Williams or anyone else to win every match. But showing up is expected. Reputations aren’t ruined by a loss. But reputations are ruined by breaking the rules, not showing up for work, and standing people up.
TJ Walker is president of Media Training Worldwide www.mediatrainingworldwide.com