John McEnroe hits back at the gender pay gap brigade, says he's worth every penny paid to him

After it was revealed he earned 10 times more than Martina Navratilova for their Wimbledon work for BBC work, McEnroe insisted it was not comparable to player prize money.

                            John McEnroe hits back at the gender pay gap brigade, says he's worth every penny paid to him
John McEnroe (Getty Images)

Tennis legend John McEnroe found himself at the center of a gender pay debate earlier this year when it was revealed that he had earned ten times the amount paid to a female BBC Wimbledon pundit who is a friend of his.

However, McEnroe is not one to sit back and gulp whatever slander his critics throw at him. He went on to assert that he is worth every penny paid to him.

The champion said that male and female broadcasters should be remunerated not on the basis of their gender, but merit. McEnroe is among the highest-paid talents at the BBC, earning close to $270,000 a year.

In March, Martina Navratilova revealed that she was paid a tenth of what her fellow presenter and ex-champion received for covering the 2017 Wimbledon tournament.

That being said, the 59-year American star insisted that it is difficult to quantify the value of on-air commentating talent, reported the Guardian.

He said: "If you work at a paper and there’s a woman and man – you’re going to get paid based on the job you do in the opinion of the paper. Right?

"If the girl does the better job she should get more money. That’s what it boils down to."

He continued: "I think people know how I feel, it’s not a black and white issue. I don’t think it’s simply, like, people receiving the same pay. You’re not going out and playing Wimbledon or the US Open. This is a totally different animal. We can agree on that, right?”

But the 61-year-old Czech-American told BBC's Panorama: "John McEnroe makes at least £150,000.

"I get about £15,000 for Wimbledon and unless John McEnroe’s doing a whole bunch of stuff outside of Wimbledon he’s getting at least ten times as much money."

Navratilova further added: "We were not told the truth, that’s for sure. It’s still the good old boys’ network. The bottom line is that male voices are valued more than women’s voices."

Back then the channel insisted that the pair performed "different roles" and hence the difference in pay.

McEnroe was asked if he felt "uncomfortable" about being paid "10 times more" than his colleague.

“The way you presented that, it seemed like a trick question,” he replied, smiling. “The mature man that I am at this stage, the knowledgeable man I am about the way things can be presented, leads me to believe that it’s best if I stay out of this particular issue and let the BBC handle it right now.”

Earlier this month, Navratilova hinted that in the wake of the larger BBC pay issue, she received a significant hike in her compensation.

Immediately after, she said she's "very happy" to be working for BBC at Wimbledon this year, asserting that "it’s good to see the BBC taking gender pay equality seriously."

McEnroe, who is set to return to television screens next week, stated that as they are "not often in the same place", he had not been able to speak with his fellow BBC pundit.

“As far as the other stuff? I don’t know. I don’t know what she gets and she doesn’t know what I get and I don’t know what most people get. I’ve not spoken to her - but we’re not in the same place that often. It doesn’t come up.”

McEnroe's favorite colleague in the BBC is Sue Barker, who falls just behind Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer in terms of the corporation's highest-paid sports broadcasters, according to official figures.

"I believe Sue does a very good job," he said. "She is juggling and has got people in her ear all the time, that’s already a lot tougher than what I do."

Having said that, McEnroe has metamorphosized from the brazen teenager of Wimbledon to an indispensable fixture on the nation's TV screens for the biggest Tennis tournament in the world.

Owing to his dry New Yorker wit, combined with his proficiency as a legend of the sport, he is hugely popular with the majority of the Wimbledon's patrons.

“I’ve been fortunate,” McEnroe added, “that I have been working with the BBC for at least 15 years [actually, since 2000] and it has given me the opportunity to present myself in a different way. At least, people see me in a slightly  different light than they saw me  on the court, so I think it’s been mutually beneficial, hopefully.”

Ever since the salaries of the top BBC broadcaster were revealed last summer, the gender pay gap brigade has blown his case out of proportion, ridiculing him at every step.

At the time, it was revealed that Chris Evans of BBC Radio 2 topped the list with a staggering $2.7 million. On the other hand, the highest paid woman, Claudia Winkleman, received a remuneration of $670,000 a year.

But rest assured. Starting next week, McEnroe would be commentating once again on BBC for the Wimbledon.