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Disorder on the Court is Bad PR for Tennis

Whether or not Stefan Fransson ever gets around to changing the rules of tennis to introduce line challenges or instant replay at Grand Slams, he might want to consider adding a basic public relations component to the International Tennis Federation’s officiating certification program, based on really inappropriate behavior today at Roland Garros.

Chair umpire Damain Steiner may be skilled and knowledgeable, but he knows bupkes about communications. By falling silent, and letting the crowd boo and hiss for nearly 10 minutes, he compromised Nadal’s right to order on the court. When you say nothing, people think you’re either incompetent, or worse yet, that you have something to hide. Patrick McEnroe said he blamed Grosjean for egging on the crowd, but I blame Steiner.

The truth is, Steiner is a probaably a pretty good umpire. He was just following the rule book. But because he didn’t explain it, and becuase the crowd went nuts, viewers everywhere are probably still shaking their heads trying to figure out why everyone exhibited such bad sportsmanship, and why Steiner went mute.

Why not require White Badge Officials to take a simple media training course, to help them better protect the sport’s image? When you don’t respond to outside criticism of that magnitude, viewers think the officials don’t care. And if the officials don’t care, how can you take the sport seriously?

Here’s the AP report.

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