Pay discrepancy in professional tennis is not just a historic plot point in Battle of the Sexes. In an interview with the BBC One program Panorama, which airs in full on Monday at 7:30 P.M. in the U.K., former tennis champion and commentator Martina Navratilova said that the BBC pays her £15,000 to her fellow Wimbledon commentator John McEnroe’s (roughly) £150,000.
“Overall, it was a shock because John McEnroe makes at least £150,000,” she said. “I get about £15,000 for Wimbledon, and unless John McEnroe’s doing a whole bunch of stuff outside of Wimbledon, he’s getting at least 10 times as much money than I am for very comparable work.”
Navratilova, who won 59 Grand Slam titles and a record nine Wimbledon single championships, retired from competitive play in 2006, and has since served as the ambassador for the Women’s Tennis Association in addition to her commentating duty. Wimbledon is a small part of her schedule, but she recognizes it’s an important one.
“For me, it’s a part-time job. It’s two weeks of my life,” she continued. “But for the women that work there full time, maybe the discrepancy’s that large. But still it adds up over a lifetime; it adds up to an amazing amount that money. It makes me angry for the other women that I think go through this.”
A BBC spokesperson told The Guardian that McEnroe is “regarded as the face of our Wimbledon coverage,” and did not deny the pay discrepancy: “He is a defining voice within the BBC’s coverage. He is widely considered to be the best expert/commentator in the sport, highly valued by our audiences and his contract means he cannot work for another U.K. broadcaster without our permission. His pay reflects all of this—gender isn’t a factor.”
This isn't the first time the gender-pay-gap debate has hit the BBC. Last summer, female BBC personalities wrote an open letter to BBC Director General Tony Hall about the pay difference they experienced as women:
“The pay details released in the annual report showed what many of us have suspected for many years . . . that women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work. Compared to many women and men, we are very well compensated and fortunate. However, this is an age of equality and the BBC is an organization that prides itself on its values. You have said that you will ‘sort’ the gender-pay gap by 2020, but the BBC has known about the pay disparity for years. We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now.”