Stop The Sexist Criticism Around Emma Raducanu’s Sponsorship Deals

The tennis star's agent said she turned down millions to concentrate on her tennis, but it's still not stopped her haters

Emma Raducanu

by Rhiannon Evans |

In characteristically British fashion, it's Wimbledon and we have ourselves a really promising tennis star... and so people have started to chip away at her. And, in even more characteristically sporting fashion, the criticism has a sexist tinge.

After her recordbreaking US Open win, everybody wanted a piece of Emma Raducanu - the deals that were thrown at her feet were almost as plentiful as the stories written about the billions she was going to make from the deals being thrown at her feet.

Since that win, Raducanu's form has been mixed - the 19-year-old has won nine out of her 20 matches that she's played (including a thrilling first round at Wimbledon) and she's battled a string of injuries.

Many on the internet have put two and two together and come up with a lovely sexist five, claiming that her downturn in form is because her head has been turned by all those deals and a possible celebrity lifestyle.

Why is it sexist? Well, firstly because anecdotally, you don't hear a lot of people saying that Roger Federer should've worked harder on his tennis than posing for watch adverts.

Ok, so people might say, there was no form downturn to criticise, and I take the imaginary point. But that was a slightly facetious example to illustrate a point. I genuinely can't remember that criticism being thrown at many of the male up-and-coming tennis stars in the day. How many names between Rusedski and Murray were going to be our next male British tennis star... then disappeared without winning anything as big as a US Open? I don't remember stories and discussions and social media rage at them wearing too many different types of trainers.

Of course the counter argument to that is that I do remember that accusation being thrown at many female tennis stars, like Anna Kournikova, or Maria Sharipova. Oh and there are the ones, of course, who are distracted by daring to have a relationship or a child... but that's for another piece.

It's the way it's talked about too. Women have their 'heads turned' and are 'distracted' as if they're silly schoolgirls in need of some concentration.

Well, actually, Emma Raducanu IS a school girl, and she's still training at an elite sport level day in, day out.

The criticism of Emma has got so bad that her agent, Max Eisenbud, was forced to defend her in a recent BBC interview.

Following her win in New York, he said there was unprecedented interest in Emma and that, instead of succumbing to having her head turned, her and her team opted to focus on her game.

'We could have done 50 days of shoots,' Eisenbud The Sports Desk podcast in a title ironically called 'Can Raducanu shake off her US Open hangover?' He said instead, the team opted to do less than 20 days across a whole year dedicated to deals.

'I've never seen the amount of excitement and companies that wanted to be in business with Emma after the US Open,' he said.

He added: 'It's been a tough year. I think she got a lot of bad luck and what really hurt her was [catching] Covid and not having a great off-season, and then she was playing catch up. But I think that if she had zero shoot dates, everything would be the same.

'I know from the outside, you guys want to look at all those things - but if she locked herself in the room for the whole year and didn't do anything, I think it would be the same.'

I'm glad that Eisenbud has an answer for Emma's detractors, but ultimately, is this where we want to be? That a young tennis star, who achieved something incredible, has to say she's turned down millions of dollars to prove she's serious about her sport?

Fair enough from a sporting perspective if that's the decision the team took. But the fact that a woman has to shout about the fact that she turned down millions for some to believe she's serious is kind of grim. It's a very, very extreme version of the female football fan in the pub having to jump through hoops and quizzes to prove she's a 'real fan' while a man in the corner can shout a player's wrong name for 90 minutes without anyone batting an eyelid.

Let's get behind Emma and celebrate every achievement she's had. Winning the US Open. Doing it all while at school. Managing the spotlight. Making those millions. All of it should be something we're proud of.

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