SBJ/September 7 - 13, 1998/No Topic Name

Venus patches up rift with WTA

The great patch war fizzled at the U.S. Open, and reporters were left, alas, with nothing but tennis to follow.

Venus Williams showed up for her second-round match wearing a Corel WTA Tour patch, and so ended — at least for now — the war of the patch.

Williams sent the women's tennis tour reeling by her refusal to wear a Corel WTA patch on her dress, as player rules require, during her first-round win in the U.S. Open last week. The WTA fined her $100, then threatened one of its most popular players with more fines of up to $25,000 for further infractions.

Williams' contract with Reebok International Ltd. prohibits any other logo on the company's dresses she is wearing in the Open. She will wear a new outfit in each round.

Reporters crowded WTA chief executive Bart McGuire at an impromptu press conference in the middle of the U.S. Open newsroom the day after the fine, asking the bewildered McGuire if he was ready to wage war on one of his own.

McGuire wanted to know when a patch became such a big deal, but his efforts were to no avail. Reporters closed in, demanding more details about Patchgate. He might still be answering questions if a Chicago Tribune reporter hadn't demanded her seat back from McGuire and broken up the press conference.

Why Williams suddenly relented is unclear, though a Reebok spokesman was quoted in the New York Post as saying the company would let Williams do whatever she liked. The WTA said it had reached no agreement with Williams or Reebok.

The Williams family had called the WTA patch rule unfair and threatened a lawsuit.

WTA rules would seem straightforward enough except that Nike Inc. is excluded. Players who wear Nike dresses do not have to wear the patches, although they are asked to try to display it in other ways, such as on towels and water bottles.

McGuire said the WTA is talking with Nike about its exception, so perhaps the patch story will live to rage another day.

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Related Topics:

Corel Corp., Reebok, WTA

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