BBC announcer comments on tennis champion's physical appearance, sparks debate

Published: Thursday, July 11 2013 11:45 a.m. MDT

Marion Bartoli of France poses with the trophy after winning against Sabine Lisicki of Germany in the Women's singles final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, Pool)


Marion Bartoli still can't belive that she is the current women's Wimbledon champion. It happened on July 6, after the French player defeated Germany's Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-4.

But since her championship match, viewers and Bartoli herself have responded to a comment made by BBC announcer John Inverdale before her last match, according to BBC, with regard to Bartoli's physical appearance.

When discussing Bartoli's playing style, Inverdale said:

"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.’”

Shortly after Inverdale's remarks, Twitter erupted with thousands of tweets discussing Bartoli's physical appearance.

A tweet from a person named Dan said: "Bartoli looks like she's a cross between man and ape. #NotAWimbledonBabe."

Will Showers commented: "Someone as ugly and unattractive as Bartoli doesn't deserve to win."

Others refused to join the mockery and came to Bartoli's defense.

"In case you didn't know, in order to be respected as a female athlete apparently you have to be beautiful," Katie Maximick wrote.

Dr. Robyn Silverman chimed in, "REALLY? Marion Bartoli wins Wimbledon and announcer immediately remarks about her lack of good looks."

Inverdale attempted to justify his comment by saying he had simply poked fun "in a nice way at how she looks."

The statement only generated additional ire; BBC reported that nearly 700 viewers called in as of Monday night to complain.

Yet when asked about the remark made by Inverdale, Bartoli continued to be professional, remaining positive in her response.

"It doesn’t matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I’m sorry," Bartoli said. "But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes. And to share this moment with my dad was absolutely amazing, and I am so proud of it."

Her father, Dr. Walter Bartoli, also expressed his love for his daughter rather than any bitter feelings for those who have judged him and mocked his champion daughter.

"I am not angry," Walter Bartoli said. "She is my beautiful daughter. The relationship between Marion and me has always been unbelievable, so I don’t know what this reporter is talking about."

Marion Bartoli even commented that Inverdale should meet her in her "ball gown and heels" while at the Wimbledon Championships 2013 Winners Ball before he classifies her as a "no looker."

Since Inverdale's statment, A BBC spokesman has addressed the issue, and Inverdale sent an apology to Marion Bartoli.

"I have apologized to Marion by letter, if any offense was caused — and I do hope that we can leave the matter there now," Inverdale said.

Having had a similar sports commenter mishap earlier this year during the NCAA football championship, BBC's incoming head of news and current affairs, James Harding, discussed whether there is a problem with gender imbalance among sports commentators.

Harding assured many at the Women in Journalism event in London that he would take action.

Jim Litke with the Assciated Press turned the attention to the male Wimbledon athletes.

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