Organizers of the French Open have banned a tennis player from taking part in the rest of this year’s Roland Garros tournament after he groped and tried to kiss a female reporter live on television.
Maxime Hamou, 21, apparently in a flirty mood, was being interviewed by Eurosport journalist Maly Thomas after his loss to Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas in the first round on Monday. He got comfortable and started wrapping his arms around her and trying to kiss her on the head, despite her repeated attempts to duck away.
The incident, broadcast live on French TV, sparked laughter and clapping from Eurosport anchors in the studio, but Thomas herself, quoted in Huffington Post France, described the episode as “frankly unpleasant.”
“If it hadn’t been live on air, I would have knocked him out” she added.
Hamou’s actions drew the ire of female politicians and pundits on social media, including former Minister of Housing Cécile Duflot. “He kisses her by force, she tries to get away, he holds her by the neck and everyone… laughs #tired,” the Green politician wrote on Twitter.
— Cécile Duflot (@CecileDuflot) May 30, 2017
Following the uproar, the French Tennis Federation announced they had banned the young player for the remainder of the tournament. “The management of the tournament has decided to revoke Maxime Hamou’s accreditation following his reprehensible behavior with a journalist yesterday” they said in a press release.
Eurosport representatives joined the chorus of apologies Tuesday, saying “the behavior of the interviewee was highly inappropriate.”
“We do not condone such conduct in any way” they added.
As for Hamou, he took responsibility for his actions and expressed his “sincere apologies” to Thomas in a Facebook post on Tuesday: In a statement, he said: “I offer my deep apologies to Maly Thomas if she feels hurt or shocked by my attitude during her interview.
“I have just spent a magnificent week here at Roland Garros… and I expressed my overflow of enthusiasm crudely towards Maly, who I know and respect sincerely.
“I’m still learning every day from my mistakes to become a better tennis player and a better person.”
This is not the first time a sportsman’s behavior prompts accusations of sexism in sports journalism. Last year, West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle landed in hot water after asking a female sports commentator out on a date during a live interview.
“To see your eyes for the first time is nice. Hopefully (we’ll) win this game and we can have a drink after. Don’t blush, baby.” Gayle said
The former West Indies captain defended his remarks as a “simple joke” but was later fined $7,200 by his club for “inappropriate conduct.”