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Why is a man who assaulted his girlfriend presenting Wimbledon this summer?

Nick Kyrgios, tennis’s ‘beloved troublemaker’, looks to be milking his ‘bad boy’ reputation for all it’s worth – and so too, it seems, is the BBC, writes Katie Edwards

Friday 24 May 2024 15:53 BST
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Australian tennis ace Nick Kyrgios admitted assaulting an ex-girlfriend, but avoided a criminal conviction
Australian tennis ace Nick Kyrgios admitted assaulting an ex-girlfriend, but avoided a criminal conviction (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Where’s cancel culture when you need it? The BBC’s latest recruit to the team presenting its Wimbledon coverage this year is none other than the “bad boy of tennis”, Nick Kyrgios.

Yes, that’s right: it’s that potty-mouthed bloke who was fined for spitting towards fans and throws tantrums when he doesn’t get the right colour towel. The same one who pleaded guilty to shoving his then girlfriend Chiara Passari onto the pavement during an argument in 2021.

But it’s all good fun! Kyrgios even seems to have centred his branding around his infamous piques of temper. His video podcast Good Trouble is based around the idea that Kyrgios is some kind of social disruptor; a rebel who does things his way, regardless of the consequences.

Have a read of the show’s blurb for an idea of the schtick he’s shilling: “Hosted by tennis’ beloved troublemaker, Nick Kyrgios, Good Trouble with Nick Kyrgios explores the personal journeys of individuals who are making waves by doing things on their own terms. The series takes inspiration from Kyrgios’s own career, marked by his unorthodox style and willingness to defy the norm, and extends that narrative to a broader spectrum of guests.” Guests, by the way, that include convicted rapist Mike Tyson.

What defies norms more than an aggressive rich bloke who throws a tantrum when he doesn’t get his own way? What says “beloved troublemaker” more than a celebrity athlete who admits to assaulting his partner but sees his charges dismissed? Oh, yes, that’s right, that’s not disrupting norms at all. It’s par for the course.

In fact, far from cancellation, allegations of assaulting women seem to boost the careers of male celebrities. Let’s have a look at Johnny Depp. Well, actually, I can’t bear the sight of him these days, which is unfortunate because his face is all advertising billboards and TV ads flogging expensive perfume for Dior.

I mean, what better way to promote a men’s fragrance than have an actor engaged in a series of legal disputes about domestic abuse to front a campaign for a cologne called “Sauvage”?

Sauvage is an enormous success and the Depp v Heard trial only increased sales. Let’s get it straight: Depp had spent a decade watching his star fade in Hollywood. He was beset by professional failure as, one after the other, his films flopped at the cinema.

But, as it turns out, nothing says ‘crowd pleaser’ like text messages joking about the murder and rape of a woman – and, thanks to both of the trials (one of which of course he was successful in), Depp’s profile got a much-needed boost. He modelled for Fenty, continued his big bucks deal with Dior and went on to make more films.

From what I’ve seen, Kyrgios, like Depp, also looks to be milking his “bad boy” rep for all it’s worth — and so too, it seems, is the BBC. Commenting on the appointment of Kyrgios as one of the channel’s Wimbledon pundits, the BBC’s Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore joked that “anything could happen”.

Allegations of domestic abuse and public displays of aggression and foul temper don’t seem to provoke horror – just an indulgent eyeroll and a “what’s he like?” attitude. And even if, like Kyrgios, a man admits to assaulting his partner then we might still not think it’s a big deal because who’s the real victim? The woman who landed on the pavement after being shoved by her boyfriend or the man who was ‘in a hard place’ at the time and is trying his best to be a better man? A better man? Give me a break.

Am I surprised that Kyrgios’ reputation has been enhanced rather than harmed by his admission of assault? Not at all. Am I shocked that the BBC has been so blasé about his appointment as a pundit? I guess not. But, like so many women, I am tired of being shown how little we matter.

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