Deafening Silence: The ATP needs to protect people, not their brand

A black mark has been placed on the ATP as they continue to stay silent regarding the Alexander Zverev situation. They need to protect people, not their brand.

The ATP has been under a huge amount of pressure in 2020. The year began with the shutdown of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wimbledon Championships were canceled for the first time since World War II and the uprising of lower-ranked players came along with it as their stream of revenue from tournaments was not available for months on end.

Once the return finally came after five months in August, the criticism that the organization drew was heard loud and clear after deciding to continue on with the US Open despite the United States being the world’s leader in virus cases by too large of a margin to even describe. Of course, what came out of the year’s second Grand Slam was a controversial incident with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, where he struck a linesperson with a ball after seriously struggling to begin his fourth-round match, resulting in a default.

Fast forward to now and it’s only gotten worse for the sport. The recent allegations against Alexander Zverev are simply the icing on the cake to what can be described as a horrendous season for the ATP. A few days before Zverev’s opener at the Rolex Paris Masters, longtime girlfriend, Olga Sharypova, put out an Instagram post about the World No. 7 and the countless incidents of abuse she faced while the pair were together.

From multiple counts of beating to choking, enough for Sharypova to flee barefoot out onto the streets of New York City, it was clear that something was clearly wrong. These encounters went as far as to attempt suicide by insulin poisoning after an encounter with Zverev in Geneva.

Zverev has, of course, denied the accusations, saying that Sharypova’s statement was “simply not true”.

“That’s not who I am, that’s not how I was raised by my parents. That’s not just simply who I am as a person,” Zverev said before his opening round match in Paris.

Despite everything, the ATP has stayed silent. After a few days of keeping Zverev out of their social media posts (due to the backlash they received from fans), everything is back to normal at the Nitto ATP Finals is set to begin tomorrow.

Two Sides of the Story

There are two ways to look at this situation:

  1. The ATP can’t make any real decisions because there isn’t “concrete evidence” (AKA the legal response)
  2. The ATP should take action regardless of the evidence due to what the allegations entail (AKA the “impulse decision” response)

From a legal standpoint, it’s sort of understandable that the tour hasn’t dug that deep into the situation at hand. With no evidence other than the details described by Sharypova and the interviews where Zverev denied them, it isn’t clear what happened. From a legal standpoint, people have lied before in this situation. I’m not saying she did here. In fact, I completely stand by her side here, but from an organizational standpoint, it’s much more difficult to pick a side without any concrete evidence. The stakes are too high and they simply weren’t there.

The other side of the coin is that the ATP should take action regardless of the fact that they weren’t there. Any action as serious and potentially detrimental as domestic violence by a player should be condemned, with the player being punished for those actions. Even though the evidence isn’t clearly there, the ATP must take Sharypova word on the matter. There’s an element of trust that needs to be had, the trust that Sharypova wouldn’t lie about such horrible things.

Silence is Deafening

The ATP released a statement yesterday regarding the incident:

“The ATP fully condemns any form of violence or abuse. We expect all members of the Tour to do the same, and to refrain from any conduct that is violent, abusive, or puts others at risk.
In circumstances where allegations of violence or abuse are made against any member of the Tour, legal authorities investigate, and due process is applied, we then review the outcome and decide the appropriate course of action. Otherwise, we are unable to comment further on specific allegations.”

Based on this, the ATP condemns any form of violence or abuse. They expect all tour members to do the same and to “refrain from any conduct that is violent, abusive, or puts others at risk.” Based on this, they should be taking immediate action. One of their players has been accused of domestic violence and the evidence has been clearly stated by the victim. Therefore, based on their statement, they should “review the outcome and decide the appropriate course of action.”

As I explained with the two sides of the coin, the ATP doesn’t seem to have clear evidence enough to make the decision of what they should do with Zverev, despite the allegations by Sharypova aginst him. They seem to not be in a position to take action despite condemning any form of violence.

The organization has decided to do the worst thing possible: stay silent. There hasn’t even been a statement saying they’d investigate the matter. Nothing. Despite saying they’ll investigate until they figure out the correct course of action, they haven’t done a thing.

The ATP needs to step up as soon as possible. This entire situation puts a black mark on the organization as they continue to deafen the tennis world with their silence. Alexander Zverev is a huge part of the tour’s 2020 success but that doesn’t matter anymore. Stop protecting the brand. Protect people.