Before the current dynastic professional tennis triumvirate of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, there were other great players, many of whom had outsized, boisterous personalities. We had Jimmy Connors with his tendency to pout. Then there was Martina Hingis with her unabashed criticisms of the Williams sisters and their treatment due to their race. And, of course, we had Ilie “Nasty” Nastase with his boorish and outrageous rants.
But the most outspoken, in-your-face, and controversial figure in all of tennis had to be the great John McEnroe. With that New York attitude and accent, combined with a zero-tolerance approach to mistakes by officials, McEnroe was larger than life, both on and off the court. And it is clear that McEnroe is maintaining that persona as the 63-year-old continues offering his opinions about on-court action as a broadcaster, and about off-court issues as a voice of the sport.
This past winter, officials running the Australian Open made global headlines with their decision to ban the aforementioned Serbian star Novak Djokovic due to his refusal to abide by the Aussie’s requirement that all players be fully “vaccinated” with the COVID-19 jabs. Now there is speculation that U.S. Open officials might follow a similar path. And McEnroe is having none of it.
According to the New York Post, McEnroe offered this take:
“These politicians are getting in the way too much,” McEnroe said. “They did it in Australia. Let’s let the guy come in and play in the U.S. I mean, come on. This is ridiculous.”
Amen, Mr. McEnroe, and thanks for chiming in. We wish there were more like you.
But McEnroe hasn’t limited his input to vaccinations; he’s also putting his thoughts out there regarding the banning of Russian players for the sins of their government. According to Yahoo Sports, McEnroe isn’t a big fan of such decisions, particularly as it relates to the recently concluded championship at Wimbledon, and he makes excellent points:
“It was a mistake [to ban Russian and Belarusian players]. I know that it’s a very horrible, tricky, terrible situation obviously in Ukraine.”
“It’s like a lose-lose right now. Tennis players, we are like a fraternity. We travel the world. And even if we speak different languages, there’s a connection. And in a small way, it’s like a family, and we need to support each other. It’s difficult to see like some of our best players not playing because of something they have nothing to do with. So I hope it is resolved. I don’t know, but it’s a bad situation.”
For those shouting at their smart phones and computer screens, “But I thought you didn’t want entertainers and sports celebrities publicly opining on politics,” you are correct. The last thing we need is more ill-informed, holier-than-thou sports figures jumping into the fray. But note one big difference with McEnroe’s comments: they’re related to the sport of tennis and the handling of tournaments.
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McEnroe’s not just putting out thoughts on random topics to portray himself as a social justice warrior. He’s not LeBron James demonizing the police and imaginary systemic racism because a young thug got shot by cops while he was reaching for a hunting knife in Kenosha. McEnroe isn’t trashing his country like Megan Rapinoe because of a Supreme Court ruling on abortion. And McEnroe isn’t hollering about taking away Americans’ guns like certain basketball coaches who think they’re smarter than everyone else.
Leaders in the sports world providing input that relates directly to their competitions isn’t only necessary, it should be welcomed. And for those of us who love tennis, let’s hope John McEnroe continues to put in his two cents.
By Jordan Case
Jordan Case offers opinions from the unique perspective of both entrepreneur and parent and is a regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative. Jordan does not participate in the cesspool of social media.
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Featured photo courtesy of Brian Minkoff-London Pixels, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons; image has been cropped.