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.”
“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.”