Sports

So what’s to be done with Alexander Zverev?

Details of domestic abuse allegations against Alexander Zverev were published in Slate yesterday.
Image: Getty Images

The U.S. Open has a problem. The ATP has a problem. And neither is likely to do much about it. And no, it’s not the ranks of players pulling out of the tournament.

Slate yesterday published a story about the domestic abuse accusations levied at Alexander Zverev from former girlfriend Olga Sharypova. The details in the Slate story are chilling, especially the sections about how, Sharypova says, the alleged physical and mental abuse drove her to attempt suicide twice.

And yet nothing has ever happened to Zverev, the 24-year-old German-born son of Russian tennis parents. It doesn’t seem as though the allegations are a secret. According to the Slate piece, Andy Murray knew about it, as did Roger Federer. And so did the NBC broadcasters of the Olympics, who discussed the allegations on air. So while it may have been relegated to the tennis world, it wasn’t exactly under wraps. Zverev has been dropped by some sponsors, without them ever stating the reason why other than the usual bland press releases. It has gone unexamined for the most part. I honestly didn’t know much about it before yesterday, and I’m a casual-plus tennis fan (missed the Olympics, given its time slot).

Zverev denied the assault allegations, calling them “unfounded” and “simply not true.” Zverev’s attorneys also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Slate claiming their request for comment was “based on obviously incorrect assumptions and insinuations.” The ATP has hid behind the legal process as an explanation for its lack of action, which is even more egregious for them, saying they would consider responding to an allegation if and when a legal proceeding had run its course.

As we know, depending on any legal system to see a domestic abuse case through to the end is a fool’s errand, for any number of reasons. As Sharypova states, she had no interest in pressing charges, as a lot of survivors don’t, for myriad justifiable reasons.

The Slate story includes the ATP’s wishy-washy statement released last Saturday about a review of its “safeguarding” policies being in progress, including “those pertaining to domestic violence,” or some such hot garbage. My sense is they’re hoping to stall out until the end of the last major of the season, which is the U.S. Open and begins Monday, and then not care when tennis fades into the background as it tends to do in the fall. Football starts in America, soccer has already started in Europe, and tennis pales in comparison to both.

Yeah, the ATP has a different set of challenges than say the NFL, as the article notes, in that the players are independent contractors. And we’ve seen that when leagues try to replace or replicate the legal system in these cases it gets dumb and messy (Deshaun Watson just the latest example).

But the ATP, and the U.S. Open, can certainly decide who plays in their tournaments and who doesn’t. It’s hard to gauge just how much the U.S. Open would lose by tossing Zverev for this tournament, but you’d have to guess ticket sales wouldn’t suffer that much, nor would TV ratings. This isn’t Federer or Djokovic or Nadal, and two of them aren’t playing anyway. Yet, it wouldn’t be a shock if the tournament is paranoid about losing another star, who just won gold in Tokyo.

But this is out there now, and some of the questions during the whole tournament may come. Tennis saw fit to chase Naomi Osaka away simply because she felt she wasn’t in a place to answer the media’s inane questions. Which is the worse offense?

And there’s more

In another sparkling example of what women who are in, or follow, sports face, we turn our attention to Manchester, where Manchester City is hotly rumored to be after Cristiano Ronaldo to fill the Harry Kane-sized gap in their lineup. Whether Ronaldo can actually do that is a discussion for another day.

On the same day, Man City suspended defender Benjamin Mendy after he was charged with four counts of rape and sexual assault. Which is quite the juxtaposition, considering that Ronaldo has been accused of rape (Ronaldo strongly denies the allegation claiming the sex was consensual). Ronaldo and his accuser reportedly agreed to a cash settlement and a non-disclosure agreement.

We know the shelter that rape apologists will run for in this case — thank god BarfStool stooges haven’t really come for soccer yet. Mendy has actual charges where Ronaldo does not. We can guess the real reason for Man City’s different response is that Mendy is a backup defender, at best, and Ronaldo is a global star who’ll walk straight into the City first 11.

City is certainly picking and choosing when they display their morals, which is another hilarious statement about a team owned by a Middle East dictatorship. Ronaldo’s past is hardly a secret to anyone. But he can still score goals, and his accusations can be ignored just enough to provide just enough daylight for them to throw their palms up and say what can they do?

Great day all around.

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