Hiring Nick Kyrgios to fill its vacant toxic male slot is an unforced error on BBC’s part

Estimated read time 6 min read

The BBC’s Lucy Williamson has done more than most to illustrate how much better the world would be without the contributions of Andrew Tate.

The misogynist influencer was under house arrest in his dingy Romanian man cave, awaiting trial on charges of rape, human trafficking and forming a criminal gang, when her 2023 interview indicated that his mastery over women is not as complete as advertised. He repeatedly failed – to a point that evidently upset some Tate worshippers – to frighten Williamson off.

Complaints that Williamson had been “biased” confirmed she’d made the invincible one look silly. His own resentment took the shape you’d expect: the jibe that she was erotically fixated: “When I first met Lucy it was clear I am the object of her obsession.”

Somehow her colleague Matt Shea escaped a similar allegation following his subsequent contributions to the BBC’s expansive Tate archive: Andrew Tate, The Man Who Groomed the World?, The Dangerous Rise of Andrew Tate.

At least some of the above must have been known to the BBC managers who have just hired as a Wimbledon commentator one of Tate’s most famous supporters: the tennis player Nick Kyrgios.

In 2022 Kyrgios described his feelings for the yet to be arrested Andrew and Tristan Tate as “low-key love”. Since then, a UK extradition warrant for both brothers has joined the Romanian charges: Bedfordshire police are investigating allegations of rape and human trafficking. Both brothers deny all allegations. And, outside the world of elite sport, Kyrgios’s BBC appointment has been received about as well as you’d expect from any national venture in misogyny promotion to which female (and non-misogynists’) contributions are compulsory.

In welcoming Kyrgios, BBC licence payers will also be assisting in the public rehabilitation of an abuser: last year he pleaded guilty to a single incident of assaulting his (subsequently ex-) girlfriend, but did not get a criminal conviction.

Even minus the Tate part of Kyrgios’s repertoire, the pointless offensiveness of this appointment surely exceeds any self-harm its broadcasting rivals could reasonably have fantasised for the corporation, including a tennis-themed re-enactment of the judgment of Paris hosted by John Inverdale, who once said a player was “never going to be a looker”.

Announcing Kyrgios’s arrival, the BBC’s head of content, Charlotte Moore, twinkled: “So anything could happen there!” Which was not, admittedly, something she could have said about any of the BBC presenters recently shown towards the older woman oubliette.

Since Moore could not have been alluding to Kyrgios’s assault, her pleasantry presumably related to a long history of thuggish and otherwise ugly behaviour that has earned Kyrgios the title of most fined player in tennis history. Colleagues required to work alongside Kyrgios this summer will be aware that Moore’s “anything” ranges from his repeated spitting, abusing umpires, lewd gestures, racket throwing/smashing and various displays of asinine petulance to, most memorably (unless you are a senior BBC content manager), a sexual slur about a rival player’s girlfriend.

Maybe, assuming the episode was discussed, the BBC felt that the passage of time should be enough to reassure female colleagues and licence payers that the BBC Kyrgios will be a different person from the one who, in 2015, was recorded on court taunting another player: “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that mate.”

Though hiring Kyrgios may not be the obvious way to promote trust in a company code of conduct that specifies “we will always be kind and respectful”, it could still be invaluable when he looks likely to spit. Colleagues could try: “To be the very best for our audiences we need to be the very best for each other.”

It’s less easy to comprehend Moore’s confidence in the BBC hiring a man known to have assaulted his girlfriend will not repeatedly be cited by the BBC’s enemies, as well as by victims of domestic attacks, as what it undeniably is: the trivialising of male violence.

Granted, acceptable sports personalities may be thin on the ground – to the point that, for Euro 24, the BBC has requisitioned Wayne Rooney, the known user of prostitutes – but were no men without a history of common assault available to commentate this Wimbledon?

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Considering his wish to put the episode behind him – “I was not in good place when this happened and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret” – it seems unfortunate that the reformed Kyrgios was recently associating his name with that of a misogynist whose boasts about violence (“grip her by the neck”) are famous.

In February, in answer to a characteristically creepy Tate tweet, “What is love if not obsession?”, Kyrgios responded on X: “I agree. Speaking facts as usual.” From their extensive coverage of Tate’s influence over young men, BBC managers will be aware that celebrated Tate “facts” include, on women: “if you put yourself in a position to be raped, you must bare (sic) some responsibility”. More recently, Kyrgios’s hero aimed homophobic abuse at less prolific males: “If you are 40 with less than 5 children you’re probably gay.”

You could easily get the impression that, as with the late financier James Goldsmith on marrying a mistress (it “creates a vacancy”), immediately the BBC resolves one over-indulged alpha male embarrassment it is consumed by some irrational urge to replace it with another.

How else to explain that, with its ordeals relating to Martin Bashir, Russell Brand, Tim Westwood and Huw Edwards mercifully in the past, the BBC has now appointed a man so extravagantly unappealing that even male sports fans recoil?

Though maybe reputational damage was carefully weighed against the benefit of audience excitement (“anything could happen!”) about Kyrgios’s unsportsmanlike habits translates – providing no rival hires Tate himself – into a victory for its ratings, as well as for women-hating masculinity.

In fact, with the appointment of Kyrgios, the BBC’s head of content aligns her organisation’s interests with those of Tate disciples the world over. They look bad now, but a conviction could make it so much worse.

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Source: theguardian.com

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