Stacey Allaster, the Chairman and CEO of the WTA, was Among the Panelists at the New York Tennis Debate on Friday to Discuss the Subject, 'What can Tennis do to Improve Lives in Africa?'

Aug 26, 2013, 04:00 ET from Credit Suisse AG

NEW YORK, Aug. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The debate, which was presented by Credit Suisse, partners with the Roger Federer Foundation, also featured Justin Gimelstob, a member of the ATP World Tour's Board, as well as businessman Lorne Abony, the Chairman and CEO of Mood Media, and Janine Haendel, the CEO of the Roger Federer Foundation. This followed the inaugural London Tennis Debate held last November.

  • During the debate, hosted by Bill Macatee of CBS Sports and The Tennis Channel, Stacey Allaster spoke of her pride at the work Serena and Venus Williams are doing in Africa, and also how Billie Jean King has inspired young players to become philanthropists.
  • Janine Haendel disclosed that Federer is "very involved with the Foundation, not just with his time but also with his heart - It's something that is part of his personality and part of his character. This is why it's so credible what he's doing, because it's not an image thing."
  • Lorne Abony argued that charity work should not be mandatory for tennis players as that "would be tantamount to a tax."
  • Justin Gimelstob said that, "by starting late with his foundation, Andre Agassi has raised the consciousness of current players to start early with theirs." 


Edited highlights of the New York Tennis Debate:

Bill Macatee on Roger Federer's work with his Foundation: "You can see that this goes beyond a photo opportunity. You can see that on Roger's face, that he feels strongly about what he's doing."

Janine Haendel on what inspired Federer to start his Foundation: "There wasn't a certain day in his life when he woke up and said, 'oh, I need to give back'. It was a consequence of education, and of a childhood in an environment where family is sensitive to the needs of others. As a child he regularly spent his holidays in the country where his mother had been born - South Africa - where he saw poverty and realized that not everybody is raised with the same privileges that he had had. Without that family background, you don't create that will to give back. He's very involved, not just with his time but also with his heart. It's so credible what he's doing, because it's not an image thing. It's something that is part of his personality and part of his character."

Stacey Allaster on the role models on the WTA Tour: "We have Serena, Maria, Vika, who are strong, young, confident businesswomen who are successful in life. They are great role models for young women and also for young boys."

Justin Gimelstob on starting his own foundation, and how the ATP World Tour helps young players who want to be philanthropists: "A lot of it came from my upbringing and from my parents, as you do have a social responsibility to give back. If you're fortunate enough to have had talent and opportunities, you should help others who haven't had those opportunities. At the ATP World Tour, we support players' initiatives, as then it's organic. It's best if that passion comes from an organic place, whether that's Roger with his Foundation, or Novak or Rafa, or others, with theirs. We supplement them and give them grants so they can continue their momentum, and to help them with what is important to them. And we try to get to players early, to educate them about the roles they can play, and the positive influence they can have. It's important to get them at a young age, as it's great to have a big platform and you have the biggest platform while you're still playing. I had a conversation with Larry Ellison about philanthropy, and I asked him whether he felt social responsibility. And he looked at me and said: 'Actually, I don't feel compelled at all. I don't feel responsible and I don't feel guilty. If I did, it wouldn't be organic and it wouldn't be coming from a place of purity.' If you put things in place with where your passions lie, that allows you to continue to have momentum."

Stacey Allaster on how the WTA Tour encourages players to be philanthropists: "Fundamentally, it has to come from the heart as it does with Roger. It comes from creating a culture, it comes from education and it comes from leadership. So how do we teach these teenagers? We do a Power Hour with Billie Jean King. Billie Jean speaks to those juniors transitioning from junior tennis to WTA pro tennis, and really has a very simple message for them: 'It's not what you get, it's what you give'. And so right as players are coming on to the WTA, we talk to them about the importance of giving back. We talk about financial planning and legacy, and how they might want to plan about giving back to their communities. So we put that right into context. Not everyone can have a foundation like Roger or Maria, and that's okay. If you have a foundation, that's a lifelong commitment. There are many charities that players can get involved with and make a significant difference.'

Lorne Abony on how everyone connected to tennis can make a contribution: "You can make a difference in tennis whether you have a huge foundation like Roger's, or whether you're someone who wants to give 40 or 60 or 80 hours a month."

Janine Haendel on how having a foundation is a "long distance journey": "It's important to know that it's a long distance journey. With Roger, it started small and developed step by step. But from the beginning it was important that it started on the right course, and that he was passionate about it. Just giving back because that's part of your sports career, that will not be sustainable. The first step is to find something that you're emotionally linked to, that you have a passion about. The second important thing is that if you become engaged in something, you have to do it right, and that can be complex. Young players need help and they need support, otherwise you might jump into bad initiatives and then you might have a reputational risk. It's not just about raising money and spending money, it's about having an impact with what you're doing. At the Roger Federer Foundation, we're learning every day, and we're failing every day. We learn from our mistakes, and try to get better and to become experts. Journalists want to know how much money we raised and how much money we spent, but actually that's not the point. What's more important is what our impact on the children is, how we change their lives in a positive sustainable manner. How many children are now having better performances in the schools and kindergartens we're supporting? How many children now have a better future?"

Lorne Abony on why charity work should not be mandatory for tennis players: "I personally don't think that charitable giving should be mandatory. I think that's tantamount to a tax. It has to come from the heart. If shouldn't be mandated."

Stacey Allaster on whether players should give time to charity: "That is happening. We have an Aces program, and every week at tournaments athletes have to give so much of their time, with sponsors visits, with the media, and with charity. These things are happening under the radar. Hospital visits, for example. Our athletes are giving back, each and every day."

Janine Haendel on the importance of Credit Suisse to the Roger Federer Foundation: "It's very special. Credit Suisse, who are one of Roger's sponsors, made a firm commitment to donate one million dollars a year every year for 10 years to the Foundation. This long-term commitment of money was used to start an early childhood development initiative in Malawi. It's a win-win situation. If you become a sponsor of an individual sportsman, and not of a team, you're not just sponsoring the sportsman, you're financing the personality. In the case of Roger, it's very obvious that he has more to give than just sports. So I think it's logical for a sponsor to also support the private part, the charitable part of a player, and to combine that with its own corporate citizenship engagement. But it also requires the sports manager, when negotiating with potential sponsors, to bring in the idea of a combination of sponsoring the athlete and the charitable side."

Justin Gimelstob on his pride at what the ATP World Tour and WTA have done: "I'm incredibly proud of what the ATP and the WTA have done, mobilizing so quickly after international disasters, because our sport is so international. Look at Novak Djokovic, who, just a day after a heart-breaking defeat at this summer's Wimbledon final was on the red carpet raising money for his foundation. By starting late with his foundation, Andre Agassi has raised the consciousness of current players to start early."

Janine Haendel on Roger Federer's visits to Africa: "Visits on the ground are important not only to see if the money is being spent well but also to connect emotionally to what the Foundation is doing. It is all about the children in need and changing their lives into better. So the contact with these children is the motivation and engine for all the efforts and time Roger invests. And he just feels so at home and alive out there and is having a good time with the kids. The funny thing is that the kids don't know Roger. They could never imagine that you could earn money by having a racket in your hands, and making some moves. He felt that he wanted to bring his kids to see those kids."

Stacey Allaster on efforts to grow the sport in Africa, and on the work Venus and Serena Williams are doing in Africa: "We're working to find a date in the calendar to possibly have a tournament in Africa. That's not easy. I'm very proud of the work that Venus and Serena are doing in Africa. I spoke to Serena the other day, and she's already built two schools, and like Roger she has been inspired by those experiences of seeing the impact on the children. Right now, she's working on her third school, which is great. Venus and Serena went to Africa on their 'Breaking the Mold' tour. That was about showing and educating women that they can break the mold. One athlete who does a lot under the radar is Venus Williams. I've learnt that Venus is working on a water filtration program. Venus is such a smart young woman. By grade three, the young girls have to drop out of school as they have to help their mothers to get clean water. So Venus thought, 'well, if we help with the clean water, then the young girls can stay in school'. In addition, she's creating scholarship programs. She will be able to help those kids who want more education."

Janine Haendel on Roger Federer attending the Foundation board meetings: "Roger is at all our board meetings three times a year, and they don't last just one or two hours. No strategic decision is taken without him."

Justin Gimelstob on whether tennis players have an obligation to 'give back': "I believe that tennis players have an obligation to give back to those who haven't had opportunities."

Janine Haendel on whether tennis players have an obligation to 'give back': "Every human being has an obligation to give back, whether to their family, to their children, to their neighbors or to their community. And if you have a worldwide platform, you have a worldwide opportunity."

Lorne Abony on whether tennis players have an obligation to 'give back': "Everyone has an obligation to give back and it's proportionate to what society has given to you. If you're a global tennis star, society has given you more than others, so I think your moral obligation is greater."

Stacey Allaster on whether tennis players have an obligation to 'give back': "We all have a responsibility, and it should be an opportunity for us."  

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SOURCE Credit Suisse AG