BBC Pays John McEnroe 10 Times What it Pays Martina Navratilova

It may be time for transparency on pay structures so employees know what others in comparable positions are making.

AP (“Navratilova ‘angry’ at pay gap to McEnroe for BBC work“):

Martina Navratilova is “angry” and feels let down by the BBC after learning that John McEnroe gets paid at least 10 times more than her for their broadcasting roles at Wimbledon.

In a list of the BBC’s highest-paid workers published last year, it was revealed that McEnroe earned between 150,000-199,999 pounds ($210,000-280,000) for working at Wimbledon.

Navratilova said she gets paid 15,000 pounds ($21,000).

Navratilova, a nine-time singles champion at the All England Club, said she was told by the BBC that she earns a “comparable amount, so … we were not told the truth.”

“It’s extremely unfair and it makes me angry for the other women that I think go through this,” Navratilova told “Panorama: Britain’s Equal Pay Scandal,” a program being aired on the BBC on Monday.

The BBC responded to Navratilova’s comments by saying that, as an “occasional contributor,” she appears on fewer broadcasts and is on a different type of contract than McEnroe.

“John and Martina perform different roles in the team, and John’s role is of a different scale, scope and time commitment,” the BBC said in a statement. “They are simply not comparable.”

The corporation said that while Navratilova is paid per appearance, has a fixed volume of work and has no contractual commitment, McEnroe is on call for the entire 13 days of the tournament, has a larger breadth of work — including radio and publicity — and has a contract that means he cannot work for another British broadcaster without the BBC’s permission.

“He is a defining voice within the BBC’s coverage,” the BBC said. “He is widely considered to be the best expert/commentator in the sport, highly valued by our audiences … His pay reflects all of this; gender isn’t a factor.”

Navratilova said her agent will ask for more money in future to work for the BBC.

The gender pay gap at the BBC has been a talking point since the salaries of top BBC talent were revealed last year. A review commissioned by the BBC found a 6.8 percent gender pay gap, but “no evidence of gender bias in pay decision-making.”

Third Way’s Mieke Eoyang thinks “Martina is getting screwed here.” It’s hard to argue otherwise.

BBC’s explanation isn’t completely wrong. McEnroe is almost certainly a more enjoyable color analyst and he’s especially valuable in his Wimbledon commentary, given his success there. But it’s not as if Navratilova isn’t a huge star in her own right. A contemporary of McEnroe’s, she certainly won more titles. Indeed, she won more Wimbledon titles (9) than he won Grand Slams (7). McEnroe is and always was a bigger personality than Navratilova and may well draw more eyeballs. There’s an argument for paying him more. But ten times more? (Give BBC credit: the numbers are indeed “comparable”—ten is a nice, round number for comparison’s sake.)

Complicating matters, tennis is one of the few sports—the only sport?—where the men’s and women’s games are similarly popular. We’re not comparing commenters on NBA vs. WNBA games here.

As always in these discussions, it may simply be that McEnroe’s agent is a better negotiator than Navratilova’s. She was, presumably, perfectly happy to work for $21,000 for the fortnight before finding out McEnroe was doing considerably better. But the result is nonetheless embarrassing for BBC.

While there are certainly arguments against it, the solution to these issues may well be to simply demand employers be transparent about their pay structures. New employees ought know what the going rate for people in like positions in the company and long-time employees ought be aware if they’re being shortchanged compared to new hires. And, of course, disparities along racial, ethnic, and sex lines would be less likely.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Gender Issues, Media, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. R. Dave says:

    But the result is nonetheless embarrassing for BBC.

    Seems to me the result is (or at least should be) a lot more embarrassing for Navratilova and her agents.

    While there are certainly arguments against it, the solution to these issues may well be to simply demand employers be transparent about their pay structures.

    The most persuasive argument against it, in my view, is that it violates the privacy of the employees’ whose pay is being disclosed. I, for one, would strongly prefer that my salary not be public knowledge – not because I get paid an off-market amount, but because I’m just a private person by nature and what I get paid is no one else’s business.




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  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    If their roles are different, then you can’t compare compensation.
    If they were working side by side in similar roles for similar time commitments, then there would be an argument to be made, without a doubt.




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  3. Yea, it seems fairly clear that the nature of the work McEnroe is doing for the BBC in terms of the time commitment is the main driver behind the difference in compensation here, as well as the fact that his agreement apparently says he can’t work for another British network.

    This is not an apples to apples comparison.




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  4. KM says:

    @R. Dave:

    The most persuasive argument against it, in my view, is that it violates the privacy of the employees’ whose pay is being disclosed. I, for one, would strongly prefer that my salary not be public knowledge – not because I get paid an off-market amount, but because I’m just a private person by nature and what I get paid is no one else’s business.

    Yeah, you say that now but bet if you found out you were making 25% under what your co-workers were pulling, it would be a different tune. People always want privacy until it comes out privacy was what was used to screw them. I know plenty of people with Masters making far less then they should because they didn’t have price points to compare against. How can you argue for fair market value if you don’t know what it is?

    Say what you will about the government but pay grades are a great step towards solving these kinds of issues. Start with the base grade for the position, add in things like time, education, skill sets, star power, whatever as extra points to move within the scale that grade offers. Pay disparities are not only potential pain points for a dept but hell on budgets. I’d rather have a budget where I know X amount can be spent to get top talent then blow it all on one guy who may not be worth what we pay him but can negotiate like a mofo.




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  5. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    This is not an apples to apples comparison.

    Actually, it pretty much is exactly apples to apples. There are differences between the two but they are more akin to the difference between a red delicious and a honey crisp than between apples and bowling balls.

    They are both doing the same basic job of commenting. One does it “better” in theory and for more time and has an exclusive contract. So it makes sense that McEnroe would get more – just like a honey crisp is more popular and grown in less fields because it is still under royalties and therefore costs more than a red delicious. We can and do compare the types of apples every time we go to the market and choose what variety we are buying at what price. So too with tennis commentators.

    You may think McEnroe is worth ten times more than Navratilova but we can explicitly compare them as they do the same job. Claiming this isn’t apples to apples is simply wrong – and kinda feels like a cop-out to avoid examining the situation too closely as it may rub up against your political philosophy in a way that is uncomfortable.




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  6. R. Dave says:

    @KM: It’s entirely possible I’m making 25% less than some or all of my co-workers. I have no idea. What I do know is that (a) I took a big pay cut when I moved from my last job to this one, but it was worth it to me for the improvement in work/life balance and the particular subject area of the work, (b) I’m making roughly a market rate for my services based on anecdotal reports (in person and online) from people in similar positions, and (c) I’m happy with my compensation level. If I found out that I was making 25% less than my colleagues at this particular employer, I would certainly use that fact as a reason to renegotiate my pay, but I wouldn’t resent anyone or feel like I’d been cheated, because all it means is that I might have been able to push for more when I first signed on. That’s on me. It certainly doesn’t give me the right to demand that my colleagues’ privacy be violated going forward so that I can be sure not to underbid in the future.




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  7. R. Dave says:

    @SKI: An exclusive contract and a non-exclusive contract are vastly different things and are almost always priced differently as a result.




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  8. michael reynolds says:

    Before you negotiate a deal, decide on your ‘happy number.’ This is the price at which you will be happy to write, produce, comment-upon, etc… This number should be realistic. If they give you your happy number, shut up and be happy. If they don’t give you your HN, don’t take the gig.

    If you find someone else doing the same job and being paid more, well, that’s a good thing to know when your next negotiation comes up. That said, it would be agent malpractice not to use this opportunity: when life just hands you a lever, as it has la Navratilova, lean on that lever. Her agent should be having some very serious phone calls with BBC.




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  9. KM says:

    @SKI:
    I’ve always found it strange that free-market promoters are usually vehement about not sharing salary info. Seems to me that would be precisely what the market needs in order to be free same as being able to compare prices on products; not providing the info is an artificial constraint to limit competition and deflate pricing. After all, if you knew Company A regularly underpaid its workers across the board, why would you work for them instead of Company B?

    There’s a reason why salary transparency is associated with unions and worker power – it helps people understand how the system cheats them and get what they are worth, not what the company decides to pay you. A real capitalist and free market proponent has nothing to fear from workers speaking freely about salaries and the information becoming available to those who inquire. Frankly, a lot of people who negotiated for high salaries are rarely worth their extra pay so they get rather defensive when the rabble asks why they’re getting less for doing the same job. If you can’t defend it, then why are you getting it??




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  10. SKI says:

    @R. Dave: Sure. I’m definitively NOT saying they should be paid identically. I’m saying that Doug’s “not apples to apples” line is completely wrong in this case.

    Here is the more interesting angle: how many of the “differences” are manufactured to create the justification for giving McEnroe more money because they think he is worth more but don’t want to deal with telling Navratilova that she isn’t as good. Anyone who has worked with HR/Legal to set salaries/negotiate deals has done that dance….




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  11. @SKI:

    They are doing the same job, but McEnroe’s full-time committment is far more extensive than the more limited role that appears to be contemplated with respect to Martina. If her contract were in contemplation of the same role as McEnroe then there would be a viable means of comparison. Since that is clearly not the case here, it’s simply not valid to look at these arrangements equally in terms of the obligations imposed on the respective persons involved. Because it seems clear that isn’t the case.




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  12. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @SKI:

    Actually, it pretty much is exactly apples to apples.

    The article makes it clear it isn’t…clear differences in time commitments, and non-competes. One is a headliner, one isn’t (although she certainly could be, she isn’t).




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  13. Tyrell says:

    @Doug Mataconis: There is also the “drawing power” McEnroe is more well known (for obvious and many reasons) and can hold an audiencell. Martina is known, but is somewhat bland. But tennis is bland too, as far as watching.




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  14. SKi says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: I disagree.

    The article makes clear there are reasons why BBC says it pays McEnroe more. And some of them seem like valid reasons why they would pay McEnroe more. That does NOT mean that it is impossible to compare two tennis commentators because they are totally different types of things.

    Again, my issue is with the completely wrong use of “apples to apples”. In this case, they are literally doing the same job – tennis commentators. They may be different in terms of their skill level, Q rating, exclusivity and time committed but those go to which one is better/worth more. They don’t mean that they are totally different creatures that we are incapable of comparing .

    It is Honey Crisp apples to Red Delicious apples not apples to bowling balls.




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  15. SKi says:

    @Doug Mataconis: No argument with any of that. There appear, facially, to be good and valid reasons for why they make different amounts of money per Wimbledon fortnight.*

    My argument is with the claim that we *can’t* compare them because it isn’t apples to apples. It is explicitly capable of comparison – which is exactly what you and BBC are doing.

    * whether it is worth ten times the amount is a different question that would require a much broader comparison.




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  16. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @SKi:

    Again, my issue is with the completely wrong use of “apples to apples”. In this case, they are literally doing the same job – tennis commentators.

    Yeah…but that’s like comparing Tom Brady and a Rookie LB taken in the late rounds of the draft. They’re both football players, right?
    No…they are doing different things that warrant different money. They aren’t both apples.




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  17. @SKi:

    It isn’t capable of direct comparison because the nature of the work that McEnroe is doing is far larger, and far more time consuming than what Navratilova is being asked to do. If the terms of their contract with regard to responsibilities and obligations.




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  18. Tyrell says:

    @SKI: McEnroe is a sports commentator and entertainer. Martina is a sports commentator, and a bland one.




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  19. Lounsbury says:

    It may be time for transparency on pay structures so employees know what others in comparable positions are making

    I haven’t the slightest opinion about the two persons in question, however the suggestion should take into account the lessons from the world of corporate transparency and the perverse results that arose from the transparency movement for disclosing management compensation in public corporations.

    The effects were not as intended, and have really seemed to in actual practice seen an escalation of compensation inequalities.

    That is not to assert the results in terms of gender who be identically perverse, but it is to note that one should not assume the incentive paths and end results will work in the intended fashion or pathway. People are perverse status seeking hairless apes….




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  20. michael reynolds says:

    I’d be more sympathetic to arguments about apples-to-oranges if ever the end result were reversed. In other words, where are the overpaid women? When a restaurant overcharges me a few bucks, no big deal, just a simple error. But it stops being an error when you find that 100% of the ‘errors’ favor the business and not the customer. If 100% of the ‘pay inequities’ favor men, then I call bullsh!t.




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  21. Leonard says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t know, are you making JK Rowling money?




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  22. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “But tennis is bland too, as far as watching.”

    Says the adult male who gets his kicks at amusement parks.

    No one with eyes could have watched the BNP Paribas Open over the last couple of weeks and come away saying it’s “bland.”




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  23. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “McEnroe is a sports commentator and entertainer. Martina is a sports commentator, and a bland one.”

    If by “bland” you mean “the best female tennis commentator on the airwaves,” then you’re entirely right.




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  24. the Q says:

    So, lets follow this logic, Tom Brady is a starting QB. Jacoby Brisset is a starting QB. Both play the same position and both face the same NFL competition, so Martina’s law says “they should be paid the same” since they are being paid to do basically the same job. Run an offense on Sundays.

    Could it be that, like Tom, John is a way better performer than Martina, hence the wage discrepancy? Ask 100 tennis fans who they would rather listen to during the finals and it will be 90% McEnroe, except for a few gay women and McEnroe haters.

    Also, maybe the BBC pays a higher salary since NBC also wants him to comment and may have bid up his salary in competition with the BBC, whereas nobody else wants Martina so her demand is lower which begat a lower payment.

    Now if this was a case of Aaron boone getting 10x the salary of Jessica Mendoza doing the same job together, perhaps there might be a point of obvious gender issues.




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  25. the Q says:

    Darryl beat me to the tom brady analogy.




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  26. michael reynolds says:

    @Leonard:
    Hah! No. But that analogy doesn’t work. Jo Rowling and I are both businesspeople producing a product which we sell on the open market. Neither of us is an employee, we work when and where and for as long as we like. I have no reasonable basis for complaint if my product sells less well than hers.

    There is a fairly rabid debate going on in kidlit about men getting more speaking and public appearance gigs. In that debate I’m Br’er Rabbit crying, “Oh, no, don’t stop me from giving speeches and doing panel!” (As a rule I would pay to not be on a panel.) That aside, though, kidlit is an area run by women, and if I get paid more than a woman writer with equal skills the crime lies with a female editor or a female event planner, not with little old misanthropic me. As I said above, I ask for what will make me happy. It’s not my fault when people give it to me.




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  27. wr says:

    @the Q: “Also, maybe the BBC pays a higher salary since NBC also wants him to comment and may have bid up his salary in competition with the BBC, whereas nobody else wants Martina so her demand is lower which begat a lower payment.”

    I realize that in Q-world, women are almost as disposable as minorities, but the idea that “nobody else wants Martina” is ridiculous. She is a regular commentator for The Tennis Channel.




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  28. SKI says:

    @the Q:

    So, lets follow this logic, Tom Brady is a starting QB. Jacoby Brisset is a starting QB. Both play the same position and both face the same NFL competition, so Martina’s law says “they should be paid the same” since they are being paid to do basically the same job. Run an offense on Sundays.

    Um, no. that isn’t the argument. No one on this thread is claiming they should be paid the same. No one.

    The issue is whether we can *compare* their respective salaries and weigh it against their respective performances in their role. And your analogy is dead on (and much better than that Darryl’s who compared across positions). We can scale the starting QBs, see how they are grouped, compare their performances and experiences and evaluate who is being paid fairly, who is overpaid and who is underpaid.

    With McEnroe and Navratilova, we don’t have enough data points to accurately compare BUT, and this was my point of disagreement with Doug, we absolutely can compare tennis commentators to each other. They shouldn’t be paid the same but they are comparable as they are doing the same job – albeit at different intensity and, presumably, skill.

    It is interesting to me to see the how the very concept of comparing the two touches off such a nerve with some…




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  29. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @KM: You’re just not factoring in the “it must suck to be you; your story is soooo sad” factor that is always a part of advocating “free market” philosophy.




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  30. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @SKi: It’s not apples to bowling balls, but it’s also not identical terms of contracture. Do I think that they are underpaying Navratilova? Probably. Will it be easy to establish for a jury in a tort claim? Not enough information at this point.

    Point is, as Reynolds notes, she now has a grievance available and should probably use it to renegotiate her deal. Win for transparency.




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  31. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    In other words, where are the overpaid women?

    Oddly enough sport is perhaps the only exception to your observation; women get paid drastically more than men of the same absolute level (ie if the women were competing directly against the men). You can get a sense of this by noting that Olympic championship women’s teams in many sports play and lose practice games to high school boys, women’s track records would be poor results for high school boys etc, yet many of those women make millions and no one pays those high school boys anything. Why is this fair? Because people will pay to watch those women play, no one is paying to watch high school boys play.

    Navratilova made millions playing women, none of which (including her) would beat the 200th ranked male player (Serena Williams tried against the 203rd ranked, who’d just had a beer, and lost 6-1). Those 200th ranked male players would be lucky to make 5% of what she made.

    Why did that happen? Because Navratilova was a much bigger draw than the 20oth (or even 10th) ranked male player, so the league quite rightly paid her much more. If McEnroe is in fact a proportionally bigger draw as a commentator than Navratilova (which seems to be the case) then he deserves more for the same reason she deserved more as a player than the hundreds of guys who could beat her on the court.

    There are huge problems with pay equity between men and women, but this doesn’t seem to be an example of one.




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  32. Tyrell says:

    @wr: My top sports preferences on television, and in person, are baseball and the NASCAR races.




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