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BBC apologizes after commentator calls Marion Bartoli ‘not a looker’

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Marion Bartoli became the first Frenchwoman to win Wimbledon since Amelie Mauresmo in 2006. (Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

Marion Bartoli became the first Frenchwoman to win Wimbledon since Amelie Mauresmo in 2006. (Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

WIMBLEDON, England — The BBC apologized after one of its commentators criticized newly crowned Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli’s looks.

The Telegraph reported that after Bartoli defeated Sabine Lisicki in Saturday’s final, John Inverdale asked listeners on BBC Radio, “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker? You’ll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight.’”

The comment created a firestorm on social media and the BBC was inundated with complaints. Inverdale attempted a halfhearted apology, according to The Telegraph, saying, “We poked fun, in a nice way, about how she looks … but Marion Bartoli is an incredible role model.”

Yeah, that’s not an apology.

The BBC later issued a statement apologizing for Inverdale’s remarks.

“We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologize,” a spokesman said.

Bartoli’s father, Walter, who served as her coach from childhood until this year, was told of the remarks and responded with class.

“I am not angry,” Bartoli said, according to The Telegraph. “She is my beautiful daughter.”

Inverdale’s comments came at the end of a troublesome week for British pundits and media. The week began with news that Annabel Croft, a former WTA player working for the All England Club’s Live @ Wimbledon during the tournament, had made derogatory remarks about Serena Williams’ body at a corporate event last weekend.

According to one attendee who spoke to The Daily Mail, “Annabel made many personal asides about Serena, saying that she was huge. She said all Serena’s dresses were very carefully designed to hide her bulk. She then moved on to concentrate on what she termed as Serena’s huge backside. She said she was in the ladies’ changing room and wondering who was going to wear what looked like a wedding dress. She then saw Serena getting into this dress and that the train had been carefully designed to wrap around Serena’s huge backside. It was quite offensive.”

Croft apologized for her comments, kind of.

“I apologize to anyone who might have taken offense,” she said, “but it was meant as a harmless piece of banter. Serena has a magnificent bottom that every woman should aspire to.”

The Daily Mail itself caught flak for this post about Kaia Kanepi before her fourth-round match against Great Britain’s Laura Robson on Monday.

“For Laura Robson, the prize as she walks out on court today is huge — a place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals,” the opening paragraph read. “Unfortunately, her opponent is rather on the large size as well — an Estonian powerhouse called Kaia Kanepi.” The site attached a 2006 picture of Kanepi in which she looks nothing like her current self.

As for Inverdale, he appeared to face no immediate sanction from the BBC. Later Saturday, he was back hosting the BBC’s nightly Wimbledon wrap-up show.

UPDATE: Inverdale said Sunday that he wrote Bartoli a letter of apology. In response to his on-air comments, Bartoli reportedly said: “It doesn’t matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I’m sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes. And to share this moment with my dad was absolutely amazing and I am so proud of it.”

  • Published On Jul 07, 2013
  • 102 comments
    oneleft1
    oneleft1

    guy has a history of bashing women's tennis. they need to dump him. i do understand though why he needs this job. maintaing that quaff must be expensive. 

    cleopatra209
    cleopatra209

    pamper diapers is damaged. he cannot help his hurtful and negative comments about marion. try to overlook his comments. he is hurt and bleeding inside. pray for him!

    RandyHayes
    RandyHayes

    this guy sounds like a jerk to me.

    Jeff63
    Jeff63

    Pot Kettle black

    xyzzy
    xyzzy

    Have you seen John Inverdale? Guy looks like a road accident.

    George27
    George27

    I remember when Greg Oden was getting drafted and everybody was ripping on him because he looks like he's an ugly old man and it was hilarious. She's not good looking. Who cares? People need to stop being offended by every stupid thing.

    can
    can

    On a day when the Brits should have their heads high, comes this low point. Seriously Brits, you are not to talk. Most of your women make Bartoli look like Miss Universe and most of your men are like Prince Charles, quite homely. You should be thrilled a homely girl won. Imagine a stunner next to the likes of the Queen? Yikes.

    Bennet_D
    Bennet_D

    I think the downside of too much political correctness has made people overly sensitive. Similarly, social media is a powerful tool that can potentially do a lot of good. But it’s also vulnerable to mob mentality.

    I assume that John Inverdale isn’t personally acquainted with the Bartolis, and as such, wouldn’t have an axe to grind. Yet, people – including some who’ve left comments here – have taken the matter personally, even going so far as to generalize against Brits. Granted that the question was put forward in a polarizing way to elicit discussion, Inverdale’s question was arguably objective and insightful.

    Basically, all he did was do a simplistic SWOT (Strength-Weakness-Opportunities-Threats) analysis – no matter that it involved personalities. It didn’t strike me as a put down on Bartoli; it just takes into objective account her strengths and weakness, in relation to competition. While it may not have been expressed as such, the whole point of Inverdale’s seemed to be that Bartoli’s father knew exactly her strengths and weaknesses, and figured out what could give her the best shot at success.

    Ultimately, the point was this -- knowing who you are and embracing it is key to success. Bartoli knows she’s different. She knows she’s not as popular (read: endorsements) and not as well liked as her peers (Lisicki consistently drew louder cheers, and Bartoli was applauded heartily when she double-faulted as the German rallied). But, she has learned to accept all that and be comfortable with it. Her father knew her well and taught her well. And, the self-knowledge and acceptance paid off big time.

    That was just the point, I think, of Inverdale’s question. It wasn’t meant to be personal.

    BunnyLefluf
    BunnyLefluf

    does it matter what she looks like? 

    GeorgeBroze
    GeorgeBroze

    When John Inverdale was a boy, his father said,
    "Son, you'll never be an athlete, but you will always be an a$$hole."

    pvraymo
    pvraymo

    Would love to hear what they'd say if Brittney Griner ever plays over there, now there's a REAL man.  And with their teeth and gourmet food, who cares what the British think about ANYTHING?

    JohnG2
    JohnG2

    The Serena thing is just crazy. Who does not know she is a big girl? That was just trash talking by any women whom would say that. 

    JohnG2
    JohnG2

    Her father was correct when he told her she could not count on her looks. Not PC but TRUE. The message seemed to serve her well to get the victory. She took the stage and showed in her RESULTS. Great job. 

    PurityPrydain
    PurityPrydain

    I bet she still has better teeth than most those brits. LOL

    makouria
    makouria

    Some of these British media people put American southeners to shame with their ugly racist comments.  

    luckjim
    luckjim

    Only a looser himself will mind a Champion's looking. Congratulation Bartoli from China.

    joeshine730
    joeshine730

    think what they say about those 2 Williams things??

    James C
    James C

    Personally, I have to agree, she isn't a looker. With that said, she isn't ugly to the point of being terrible to look at either. I can find a lot of tennis players better looking and a lot that are worse looking than she is. 

    More important than how she looks is how she plays tennis and carries herself off the court. She just won the second most important event she could win (The French Open has to be more important to her). She is also known for carrying herself well away from the court. 

    I do think that she is good looking enough that if given the full makeover treatment she could be very good looking, still not to the level of some competitors, but still very good looking. 

    Mike26
    Mike26

    Nobody ever accused the Brits of being overly polite, courteous or even educated...

    Anthony26
    Anthony26

    Someone needs to pay for a professional to do a movie star type makeover on her, take photos, and then she will get the last laugh. She is not a bad looking woman at all in the photo. Who looks good sweaty and after winning a match? We have all known girls that might not be attractive to some but were knockouts when they came to the prom. Or mayvbe the commentor is just gay?

    doublejtrain68
    doublejtrain68

    People in the media are going to say what they want, when they want. So what if she is not a looker? The focus should be on her winning Wimbledon, not if she's going to be the next Victoria's Secret model. It's just like they were talking about Gabby Douglas' hair during the Olympics last year instead of her winning the all-around gold. It's just stupid and ridiculous what people will stoop to. 

    marino.eccher
    marino.eccher

    If you think she's out of shape, get on out there, run around on the court with her for two hours, stand in and return her 100-mph serve and let me know how it works out for you.

    touseyd
    touseyd

    i dont know what hes talking about. Id hit 

    DerekReis
    DerekReis

    People said the same thing about Steffi Graf, She refused to play the Italian Open for years after a Italian newspaper said" The German girl with the big nose"   Ridiculous really that even now people talk about looks in sports  instead of the accomplishments of these players.  Lets face is Andy Murray is no looker, imagine what the British would say if other commentators from other country's said that about him


    HydeAlexander
    HydeAlexander

    What I'm most concerned about is that Inverdale didn't even have the character to proffer an actual apology, let alone the snide rejoinder he came up with, after some poor toady had apologized on his behalf. He genuinely believes he is above error. Or we aren't clever enough to appreciate his intelligent humour. What a disgusting example from a decadent organization.

    Welcome to modern sport. The men are athletes and professionals. The women? Brawny amazons if they're lucky, unpalatable bruisers if they're not. 

    I can't believe people will just simplify it to their 'looks', in this day and age. Nevermind showing a modicum of respect to a grand slam champion; they should get more respect than a ?/10 concerning how pretty they are, in general!

    Don't hide behind- "he's only speaking the truth/what I'd say in private" because that only reveals you as as much of an imbecile as John Inverdale. It's not a wet t-shirt contest for goodness sake, it's the Wimbledon final. If you can't separate the two, then you really are due some pity.

    YO2
    YO2

    And why do we need sport commentators anyway?  Don't we have opinions of our own?  Only angry people with a lot of baggage and bullies have to, HAVE TO! say mean things of others....  just read the posts here....

    All these angry people should go and find some help...  Seriously!

    pamperofirpo
    pamperofirpo

    The announcers should have been even more honest.

    1. Bartoli is the worst Wimbledon Champion in the Open Era. (Please identify a past Wimbledon Champion that is worse than Fat Marion).

    2. Fat Marion's victory indicates the poor state of women's tennis.

    oneleft1
    oneleft1

    @George27 no, we don't. you may accept shock jock bs but but we do not. we're supposedly dealing with professionals and when they're not they should be called out. 

    and she's not good looking... to you. hate to break this to you pumpkin, but you don't get the last word on what the world thinks. 

    ITATTRACTS
    ITATTRACTS

    @George27 when someone calls your kid ugly to an audience of thousands, let us know how you "stop being offended". 

    'Pink'
    'Pink'

    @can Care to share your stats corroborating statements like 'most if your women make Bartoli look like Miss Universe' or for that matter, 'most of your men are like Prince Charles'? Sweeping generalisations are often biased and rarely true. And why would anyone think comparing an 80-odd old woman - the Queen - to a stunner (presumably of the 20-30 age range)? It sounds like comparing someone like you (judged based on your comment above) to Stephen Hawking (and I don't mean by looks).

    Joebuckster
    Joebuckster

    @Bennet_D Nothing to do with 'political correctness'. You don't make comments about the way people look unless they are complimentary. Period. Way to waste 4 paragraphs defending someone who essentially said "She had to work harder, you know, because she's ugly. She didn't have the easy road that attractive women have". Just plain STUPID and OFFENSIVE, any way you slice it.

    'Pink'
    'Pink'

    @pvraymoSure, much better to replace one's teeth with artificial ones for the sake of vanity. On a separate note, you seem to have no idea of British cuisine. But then who indeed cares (should care) what you and your ilk think of anything?

    Joebuckster
    Joebuckster

    @JohnG2 Except her father didn't tell her that - some idiot commentator surmised that her dad was insensitive enough to tell his little daughter she was someday going to be ugly and would have to work harder than some other 'attractive' tennis player that nobody had heard of because she was a little girl at the time too. Yeah right - I'm sure that fictional comment was what drove her to win Wimbledon. You are actually less intelligent than the moron who made the original statement. Congratulations!

    Mark112
    Mark112

    @luckjim  

    I think you mean "loser" ya loser (just kidding friend).

    kyyled5
    kyyled5

    @DerekReis Andy Murray looks like he should be guarding a bridge somewhere, asking people to answer his questions three, 'ere the other side they see...

    But he's a dude, so who cares. Roger isn't exactly the best looking guy either, with that nose.

    The way women's sports is covered is embarrassing. Mostly for the commentators. Well done, Marion. They can say whatever they want about you, but they have to preface it with "Wimbledon Champion" from now on.

    EasyGoer
    EasyGoer

    She beat everyone she faced, and, as far as I know, isn't taking performance-enhancing drugs. She is the champion. End of ridiculous comments, please.

    James C
    James C

    @pamperofirpo 


    How do you define worst? If it is by the seed she had entering the event, then yes she was the worst. If you define it by how she played over the two weeks? You can not fairly judge that because you have not seen every player play every match on their way to win the title. 


    As for the poor state of women's tennis? I actually think her wins states the exact opposite. There is not one dominating player that will be in each final like we have seen most of the last 40 years. Each week there are a large number of players who can come out, play well and win an event. Just because one person doesn't dominate everything doesn't mean the state of the sport is bad. 

    YO2
    YO2

    @pamperofirpo   And your comment indicates, to everyone reading it, your poor state of mind and your lack of education.  You need mental help NOW!

    Bennet_D
    Bennet_D

    @Joebuckster I don't think it's very healthy -- even for the recipient -- to dish out  comments only when they're complimentary. Keeping it real is healthier -- but done discreetly, of course. It can be argued that Inverdale failed to do so. And that's why I thought I'd join in. I wasn't defending the guy; I was clarifying a point (as I think my last statement clearly stated). Because if that could help clarify things for some people and help them think more rationally, then the 4 paragraphs would have been well worth it. Clearly, you're not one of those. And that's fine. I'm generous with paragraphs anyway.

    kyyled5
    kyyled5

    @DerekReis And before anybody jumps down my throat, I'm part Scottish too. I fear the sun. My teeth aren't perfect. And I'd switch bank accounts with him in a heartbeat.


    But if Andy Murray were a woman and won Wimbledon, they'd be a lot more unkind to him than Ms. Bartoli. Even in 2013. Sad.

    Greg2882
    Greg2882

    @YO2 @pamperofirpo Ignore him. Trolls yearn for online attention, and get off on people showing their irritation and frustrations online. Ignore him, and he'll have nothing else to do.

    pamperofirpo
    pamperofirpo

    So, instead of trying to refute or debate my comments, you challenge my "state of mind" and "education". Sad. It is kind of like "shooting the messenger".

    By the way, can you name one past Wimbledon Champion who is worse than Fat Marion? And, do you honestly believe that women's tennis is in good shape when a out-of-shape journey women wins the biggest tournament of the year?

    Mr. J
    Mr. J

    @George27 @ITATTRACTS When your child is 28 you will still look at he or she as your kid...stupid!.....Remember this when your child is 28 and I 100% guarantee you will look as child the same...I still listen to my parents and my wife's parents and when they talk to others they say my kid.....And I think I am not a kid but to parents we will always be kids..thats reality!

    Bennet_D
    Bennet_D

    @JeffS @pamperofirpoI wouldn’t begrudge Bartoli of her Wimbledon triumph. As @JeffS rightly puts it, she played whoever was the opponent in front of her and won.

    However, I do think that her victory doesn’t really help the cause of women’s tennis, which to begin with, is already perceived to lack depth. First, the highest seed she faced was youngster Sloane Stephens (seeded 17th). Second, the consensus and the pundits’ analyses before the final was that the match would be won or lost on Lisicki’s racquet; that proved to be true. Third – and this is where it tends to get contentious – she doesn’t have the physique of an athlete. That, of course, has nothing to do with not being blonde.

    Good if Bartoli is perceived as a role model for women beyond tennis; it’s fine to be free-spirited and have cute or even idiosyncratic mannerisms. Even women who are not professional tennis players embody those. But if one chooses to be a professional tennis player, one has to look the part, as well, I think. I was watching Bartoli’s semi-final match on TV when a friend, who’s not into sports and doesn’t know who she is, asked, “Isn’t she a bit fat for a tennis player?”

    And that’s when you consider the players whom you know have put in the work because it showed, like Martina, Steffi, Mardy Fish, etc. In particular, I admire Lindsay Davenport because she seemed more prone to weight issues than her peers. Yet, she worked on it and reaped the rewards. That, for me, is inspiring; it’s an argument that soundly justifies equal prize-money between men and women – women work just as hard.

    But when a Wimbledon champion takes the title without beating top seeds and stirs up debates of whether she’s overweight or not, it only adds to the perceived lack of depth in the women’s game. Worse, it recalls Richard Krajicek’s comment about a lot of women on the tour being “fat, lazy pigs” and inevitably stirs up the issue of equal prize-money that women before Bartoli have worked so hard to achieve.

    So, Bartoli won Wimbledon – good for her. But I don’t think it’s as good for women’s tennis. 

    DerekReis
    DerekReis

    @pamperofirpo she is not fat are you serious?  Have you ever seen her in real life?  I saw her up close in Toronto and she is not fat   whats wrong with you people 

    JeffS
    JeffS

    @pamperofirpo Bartoli is actually a role model for the many women who do not buy into the "ideal" woman stererotype. Another fact: she can only face the opponents that are in front of her in a tournament. The reality is that the "stars" were beaten and that Bartoli was able to take advantage of it. Therefore, she was the best ladies player at Wimgbledon this year. You can call her fat and, yes, I noticed that she was quite stocky. Still, she is a free spirit, cute in her personality and mannerisms on the court. I'll take that any day. That's a great champion. Will she win another major or even a tournament? Who cares...her name is on the wall at Wimbledon. For the past fortnight, she was the best. 

    macgyver13
    macgyver13

    @pamperofirpo Who cares?  She outlasted everyone else and beat 7 competitors to win Wimbledon - that's the bottom line, no?