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(Reuters) - Raymond Moore has stepped down as CEO and tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open following comments he made about women's tennis in a move welcomed by the women's tour.
Moore provoked outrage at the weekend when he said top-level women's players rode "on the coattails of the men" and were "very, very lucky" to have equal prize money. The tennis world reacted strongly as world number one Serena Williams and all-time great Martina Navratilova rebuffed the statements and the ATP men's tour formally denounced them. Tournament owner Larry Ellison revealed the departure with a statement that both announced Moore's resignation and championed the sport's efforts toward equality. "Nearly half a century ago, Billie Jean King began her historic campaign for the equal treatment of women in tennis," Ellison said.
"What followed is an ongoing, multi-generational, progressive movement to treat women and men in sports equally. "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." Among his comments, the 69-year-old South African also highlighted Canada's Eugenie Bouchard and Spaniard Garbine Muguruza as being among the "very attractive prospects" on the WTA circuit, before explaining that they were "physically attractive and competitively attractive". "If I was a lady player, I'd go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport," he said. When reaction to his remarks flooded in, the former ATP Tour player quickly offered an apology but the damage had already been done. Moore had only taken over as tournament director late last year when Steve Simon resigned to become chief executive of the WTA Tour.
Simon said on Tuesday that Moore stepping down was the right decision.
"The BNP Paribas Open has supported the payment of equal prize money to all players since 2009," he said.
"The WTA looks forward to working with Mr Ellison and the Indian Wells team on continued efforts in making the sport better and equal for all players."
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Ed Osmond