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Busted Racquet

Rogers Cup changes slogan, poster after accusations of sexism

The Rogers Cup, Canada's biggest women's tennis tournament, was forced to change its slogan after a backlash claimed the original was sexist.

The first print advertisements for the tournament used the slogan "come for the ladies, stay for the legends," a reference to the fact that the regular WTA event will have a bonus four-man legends tournament featuring John McEnroe and Andre Agassi at the same site. Women's groups complained about the slogan and poster, claiming that, among other things, the tournament was suggesting women can't be legends and protesting the use of the word "ladies" to describe the female athletes.

The tournament responded with a typical, corporate non-apology apology. (Sample line: "We apologize if the original combined campaign slogan was perceived to be sexist.") To their credit, organizers did change the slogan to a more neutral, "making history, re-living history." The poster was also scrapped.

An original version of the offending poster can be seen here:

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The poster is fine. It's the slogan that's terrible.

Why shouldn't the Rogers Cup promote John McEnroe and Andre Agassi? If it thinks using the retired stars is going to help sell tickets, so be it. These advertisements are geared toward casual ticket buyers who don't know their Zvonarevas from their Azarenkas. Who else is it going to market, Serena Williams? She's bailed on the tournament multiple times since 1999. Why put all your eggs in a basket that may not even show up?

Who knows, people may buy a ticket to see a 50-year-old McEnroe lumber around the court and realize that the women are playing a brand of tennis that's far more competitive, athletic and compelling. Isn't that the point? Get 'em in the door, turn 'em into fans.

The realities of marketing are lost on some people, though. One women's activist told the Toronto branch of NOW:

"[The poster is] demeaning towards women. It suggests women are just the initial attraction, they don't actually matter," said Heather Jarvis[...] "It says the real athletes, the real legends, are the men. [...]

"It's a poster that's saying, 'Come check out the hot ladies and stay for the men, because those are the real athletes.'"

Did it say that? Because what I see is a slogan that awkwardly suggests the women are the main course and the men are sort of a dessert. At least the poster showed pictures of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova looking athletic. Notice that they're shown playing the game while McEnroe and Agassi are waving to the crowd. That suggests the women are playing tennis and the men are there for show.

Not that I'm defending Tennis Canada. The poster and slogan were poorly conceived and the replacement isn't much better. Stop all the talk of sexism, though. Sometimes a dumb poster is just a dumb poster.

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