Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe are both tennis legends and in post-retirement stages of their career, lend their expertise as commentators. During two weeks in the middle of the year, both turn commentators for Wimbledon with the BBC. But the difference in how they’re renumerated for their services has left many surprised – not least Navratilova who expressed “shock” over the gap being “at least 10 times”.
In an interview to BBC’s investigative show “Panorama” that aired on Monday, Navratilova said she was paid “about 15,000 pounds” for her analysis of the action at the All England Club while also adding that unless McEnroe was doing more outside of Wimbledon, he was receiving far higher compensation. As per BBC’s public list last year of the highest-compensated personalities, McEnroe was shown as making between 150,000 pounds and 199,999 pounds as sports “pundit”.
Navratilova revealed that she had asked the BBC if she was earning a “comparable amount to a man doing a similar job,” and was told that was the case. “So, yeah, we were not told the truth, that’s for sure,” she said. She went on to add that she was “not happy” about the “shocking” disparity while suggesting it was only two weeks of her life. She did, however, slam BBC for a possible gap between men and women who work full time. “But for the women that work there full-time,” she said of the BBC, “maybe the discrepancy’s not that large, but it adds up over a lifetime, it adds up to an amazing amount of money. So it’s extremely unfair, and it makes me angry for the other women that I think go through this.”
Responding to the alleged difference, BBC said, “John and Martina perform different roles in the team, and John’s role is of a different scale, scope and time commitment.” The network also added that Navratilova was paid per appearance with a defined amount of work. McEnroe, on the other hand, was on call for all two weeks of the tournament, on all platforms, and was contratually barred from any appearances for other British broadcasters without prior permission. “He is a defining voice within the BBC’s coverage,” the network said of McEnroe to AP. “He is widely considered to be the best expert/commentator in the sport, highly valued by our audiences. … His pay reflects all of this; gender isn’t a factor.”
The investigation estimated that McEnroe made three times as many appearances for BBC than Navratilova in 2017. When queried if BBC paid him more for being on the air more often or working longer hours, Navratilova stated: “10 times as much? I don’t think so.”
At a news conference in Chicago to promote the Laver Cup, McEnroe was asked to comment on the investigation but brushed it off for the moment. “The BBC, to my understanding, has responded and I believe in an appropriate way, at least for what has been said so far,” McEnroe said. “But if this keeps up and people think this is a story in a couple of days, I’m sure at some point I’ll have something to say about it.”