Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe are both world-famous tennis players who enjoyed brilliant careers and remain among the most well-known names in their sport. Both are also deeply knowledgeable about the game and fully comfortable in front of the camera.
Yet when BBC enlists the two Hall of Famers to provide commentary on its annual Wimbledon broadcasts, it reportedly pays McEnroe more than £150,000 (equal to about $211,000) and Navratilova around £15,000.
Somewhat ironically, the discrepancy was revealed in an excerpt from BBC’s own Panorama show, which on Monday will air an investigation into unequal pay in Britain. In the clip, Navratilova said she was surprised to see McEnroe’s name on a list of BBC employees who made between £150,000 and £199,999.
“It’s hard to compare because some people work a little harder, a little longer days, maybe a few more programs,” she told Panorama, “but overall it was a shock because John McEnroe makes at least £150,000. I get about £15,000 for Wimbledon, and unless John McEnroe is doing a whole bunch of stuff outside of Wimbledon, he’s getting at least 10 times as much money than I am for very comparable work.”
A Panorama analysis found that McEnroe made about three times as many appearances as Navratilova during the 2017 Wimbledon, but that disparity obviously does not account for the full gap in pay.
In a statement to Panorama, BBC Sport said, “John and Martina perform different roles on the team, and John’s role is of a different scale, scope and commitment.”
Panorama asked Navratilova how she would respond if BBC said McEnroe was on air longer, to which Navratilova smiled, winked and said, “Ten times as much? I don’t think so.”
Navratilova said she had asked her bosses at the BBC whether she was earning a comparable salary to her male colleagues and was told that she was.
“If this happens to me, then, you know for me it’s a part-time job, it’s two weeks of my life,” she said. “But for the women who work there full-time, maybe the discrepancy is not that large, but it adds up over a lifetime to an amazing amount of money.”
This is not BBC’s first issue with unequal pay for men and women. In January, BBC News senior editor Carrie Gracie quit her job to protest what she saw as systemic pay inequality at the company.
Panorama’s investigation will air on BBC on Monday at 7 p.m. GMT, which is 3:30 p.m. ET.