The official position of the WTA Tour, as written in the rules governing women's tennis, is that the paying and acceptance of appearance fees threatens the integrity of the game. Really? What integrity is that?
The worst-kept secret in tennis became public during the tax evasion trial of Peter Graf in Germany, namely that Steffi Graf has been paid under-the-table appearance fees over the years to play tournaments in Hamburg, Montreal, Berlin and Hilton Head, S.C., among others. One year, trial documents show, Graf made more from appearance fees than from prize money.
On a recent edition of Bryant Gumbel's HBO show, "Real Sports," Jim Lampley did an damning expose on the subject. The story questioned the WTA Tour's ability and desire to enforce the rules against Graf.
Graf says she didn't know about the appearance fees, but tour rules say it doesn't matter. Violation of the rule is punishable by a fine and/or three-month suspension.
When a producer from "Real Sports" asked if that point worried her, Graf said, "No, I'm not concerned with that. You talk to the [WTA Tour] officials about it. You don't talk to me about it."
It's reasonable to assume that the tour doesn't want the records, and even if they obtained them, it's highly unlikely that Graf would ever be suspended.
German tennis promoter Gunter Sanders, a member of the WTA Tour's board of directors, has said that he was forced to pay Graf additional money to play in Berlin and Hamburg, but he couched the payments as promotional services, such as attending a kickoff news conference.
Interviewed on Gumbel's show, Gene Scott, the publisher of Tennis Week and a longtime tournament director, accused tour officials of hiding behind "verbiage nonsense" and called Sanders' reasoning "sophistry baloney." Of course, Scott is exactly right.
This situation reminds me of so many stories of preferential treatment, such as top players getting private planes and their entire entourages charging meals to the tournament. …