LOS ANGELES – BNP Paribas Open owner Larry Ellison, despite his billions, could not find a way out of this mess. Or perhaps he didn't try.
Less than 36 hours after tournament CEO Raymond Moore's disparaging comments about women's tennis during a Sunday morning press conference held just as the singles finalists were taking the court caused a furor, the tournament announced in a statement from Ellison that Moore has stepped down.
Here's the text of the statement issued Monday night.
"Earlier today I had the opportunity to speak with Raymond Moore," said BNP Paribas Open Owner, Larry Ellison. "Ray let me know that he has decided to step down from his roles as CEO and Tournament Director effective immediately. I fully understand his decision."
"Nearly half a century ago, Billie Jean King began her historic campaign for the equal treatment of women in tennis. What followed is an ongoing, multi-generational, progressive movement to treat women and men in sports equally. Thanks to the leadership of Billie Jean, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and so many other great women athletes, an important measure of success has already been achieved. I'm proud to say that it is now a decade long tradition at our tournament at Indian Wells, and all the major tennis tournaments, to pay equal prize money to both the women and the men."
"I would like to personally thank all the great women athletes who fought so hard for so many years in the pursuit of equal prize money in professional tennis. And I'd like to congratulate them on their success. All of us here at the BNP Paribas Open promise to continue working with everyone to make tennis a better sport for everybody," concluded Ellison.
It is a tribute to Moore's decades with the tournament, one of several builders including fellow former pro Charlie Pasarell who brought it from modest beginnings, to the brink of extinction, to the gold standard it is today, that he was allowed to step down rather than have Ellison make a public-relations statement by putting the hammer down and firing him.
Given the loud and ongoing negative reaction to Moore's statements, which expressed his opinion that the women were riding on the coattails of the male players and – perhaps worse – were couched in highly offensive, sexist, derogatory and condescending terms, the surprise was more about what took so long.
No doubt the tournament post-mortem today was funereal in tone.
Of all the statements made from the various tennis bodies, and opinions from various former players, commentators and pundits, this one was the least tone-deaf, the least reactionary and the most on point.