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Sexual Harassment at the French Open shows gender equality still isn't a reality in sport


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Fresh after his Round-of-128 loss to Pablo Cuevas, Maxime Hamou was taking photos with fans and giving interviews. However, one such interview caused a stir...

As Eurosport reporter Maly Thomas, of Avantage Leconte, approached him for an interview he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her towards him. He forces a number of kisses on her cheeks, to the laughter of the crowd (and possibly a number of his entourage and fans alike), as well to the laughter the co-hosts of the Eurosport show. However, it’s clear in the clip that Thomas didn’t appreciate Hamou’s actions. 

At the end of the interview, and when Thomas tries to move away, Hamou visibly restrains her. She, quite literally, has to pull his hand off in order to get away from him. All the while, Thomas has to force a laugh so as to not disturb viewers. It’s sickening. 

Justly so, Hamou has had his French Open credentials revoked, and could also face further punishment after an investigation by French Tennis Federation’s disputes committee has been conducted.

Thomas, later in an interview with Huffington Post France, described the encounter as “frankly unpleasant” and that she would have punched Hamou in the face, had it not been on air. 

The entire incident raises again the question of sexual harassment, and harassment in general, in sport. This is far from an isolated incident. Seen again when former West Indies captain, Chris Gayle, openly flirted with Mel McLaughlin, then with Network Ten, after a cricket game. He went as far as asking her for a drink on-air. It might not sound all that bad, even harmless, but the impact it has is far-reaching. Simply put, it endorses this kind of behaviour. Another unfortunate moment was when Norwood Teague, the former athletics director at the University of Minnesota, had to resign after sending inappropriate texts to two non-student university employees. 

There are huge numbers of stories, and the fact is that it’s an issue that won’t go away unless there are severe punishments for those at fault. Hopefully Hamou is punished aptly, and will serve as a warning to others. 

As well as punishment it seems important to change the norms in sporting circles. Sexism like this drags sporting reputations through the dirt and shows that equality for women in a sporting context is still not a reality. Something has to be done and attitudes have to change. 

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