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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Ladies’ Day’ at Tennis Tourney Faces Bias Suit

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A "Ladies' Day" promotion at a professional women's tennis tournament discriminated against men by not allowing them to take advantage of the special offer, two men say in Superior Court.

Steven Zellers and Steve Frye sued the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), Tonic Lifestyle Apparel, and three other corporations for civil rights violations based on sex discrimination.

The Southern California Open is an annual WTA affiliated tennis tournament held at the La Costa Resort and Spa, and is considered a warm-up tournament leading to the U.S. Open. It achieved Tier I status in 2004. The 2013 tournament ran from July 29 through Aug. 4, with a total prize money purse of $795,707.

On Aug. 1 during the 2013 tournament, the WTA allowed defendant Tonic, the "Official Clothing Partner of the Southern California Open," to promote and host a "Tonic Ladies' Day."

An advertisement for the Ladies' Day posted on the tournament's official website stated: "Ladies, you don't want to miss an incredible day at the Southern California Open, as Ladies' Day is scheduled for Thursday, August 1. The festivities begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa with a one-hour yoga session. The special Ladies' Day ticket includes an Upper Box Seat on Stadium Court, an afternoon lunch, a Southern California Open tournament gift bag and the opportunity to meet Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Hingis."

The Ladies' Day was also advertised on the La Costa Resort and Spa website.

On July 30, Frye emailed tournament director Alastair Garland and inquired whether "guys" could purchase tickets for the Ladies' Day, according to the complaint.

"Within less than 10 minutes he received a response from Alistair Garland stating: 'Ladies only - sorry,'" Frye says in the complaint.

Frye and Zellers then attempted to purchase tickets to the Tonic Ladies' Event at the ticket window on the day of the event. They were not allowed to purchase the tickets, with the explanation that it was "just for the ladies only," the men say in their complaint.

Frye and Zellers say they were forced to purchase general admission tickets and watched the tournament from the general stands. As they exited the tournament after watching the tennis match, the two men noticed several lunch tables with signs reading "Reserved for Tonic Ladies Day."

Two women seated at one of the lunch tables confirmed to the men that the goods, including a complimentary t-shirt from tonic, were given as part of the promotion for Ladies Day, according to the complaint.

Frye and Zellers say the sex-based promotion intentionally treated males unequally on the basis of their sex, in violation of their civil rights.

They are seeking an injunction preventing future discrimination.

Other named defendants are LC TRS Inc., Octagon Inc. and Omni Hotels Management Corporation.

Frye and Zellers are represented by Sage S. Sepahi of San Diego.

Tonic, the WTA, and Octagon did not immediately return requests for comment.

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